Library Matters

Library Matters is a podcast by Montgomery County Public Libraries exploring the world of books, libraries, technology, and learning.
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Library Matters is a podcast of Montgomery County Public Libraries (MCPL) in Montgomery County, MD. Each episode we explore the world of books, libraries, technology, and learning. Library Matters is hosted by Julie Dina, Outreach Associate, Lauren Martino, Children's Librarian at our Silver Spring branch, and David Payne, Branch Manager of our Davis branch and Acting Branch Manager of our Potomac branch.  

Mar 13, 2018

Episode Summary: Children's librarians Olivia Darrell and Christine Freeman talk about MCPL's upcoming 1000 Books Before Kindergarten program. It's a fun way to help prepare your child for kindergarten and beyond, all while fostering a love of reading. Registration for this program begins Saturday, March 24, 2018. 

Recording Date: February 7, 2018

Hosts: Julia Dina and Lauren Martino

Guests: Olivia Darrell and Christine Freeman. Olivia Darrell is a librarian in our Collection Management department who selects the children's fiction for MCPL. Christine Freeman is our Early Literacy and Children's Services Manager. She also manages the Noyes Library for Young Children

Featured MCPL Resource: Bookflix, read along with classic video storybooks on this learn-to-read site, which also includes related nonfiction e-books. 

What Our Guests Are Reading Or Listening to:

Olivia Darrell: This American Life, an NPR show featuring spoken essays, memoirs, and other non-fiction narratives organized around a theme. No One is Coming to Save Us by Stephanie Powell Watts, and The Awkward Thoughts of W. Kamau Bell by, well, W. Kamau Bell. 

Christine Freeman: The Selection series by Kiera Cass and Sucktown, Alaska by Craig Dirkes.

Books and Other Media Mentioned During this Episode

Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty

Bark George by Jules Feiffer

Families, Families, Families by Suzanne Lang

First Snow by Bomi Park

Get a Hit Mo by David A. Adler

A Hat for Mrs. Goldman by Michelle Edwards

Horn Book: A magazine filled with book reviews and articles of interest to children's librarians. It is used by librarians to select books and other material. 

I Got the Rhythm by Connie Schofield-Morrison

In Plain Sight by Richard Jackson

Jarabi Jumps by Gaia Cornwall

Little Red and the Very Hungry Lion by Alex T. Smith

Lola Plants a Garden by Anna McQuinn

Looking for Bongo by Eric Velasquez

Malika's Costume by Nadia L Horn

Marta Big & Small by Jen Arena

My Heart Fills with Happiness by Monique Gray Smith

Quickest Kid in Clarksville by Pat Zietlow Miller

Star Wars Little Golden Book Collection 

School Library Journal: A magazine filled with book reviews and articles of interest to school librarians and children's librarians. It is used by librarians to select books and other material, as well as keep up with developments in the field of children's librarianship. 

Thunder Boy Jr by Sherman Alexie

We Sang You Home by Richard Van Camp

MCPL Resources Mentioned During this Episode:

Beanstack: A fun site for logging books and more. MCPL uses Beanstack for many programs, including 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten, our Reading Challenge, and our summer read and learn programs. 

BookFlix: Read along with classic video storybooks on this learn-to-read site, which also includes related nonfiction e-books.

MCPL's 3rd Annual Reading Challenge

Picture books that include braille

TumbleBooks: An online collection of animated, talking picture books. Includes story books, chapter books, nonfiction, videos, and more. Includes books in French and Spanish. 

Feb 28, 2018

Listen to the audio

David Payne:  Welcome to Library Matters with your host David Payne.


Julie Dina:  And I'm Julie Dina.


David Payne:  And today it's movie night.  Get your popcorn ready.  We are going to the movies.  It's that time of year for the Academy Awards, better known as the Oscars.  So what better to talk about movies in the company of MCPL’s great movie buffs, Fred Akuffo from the circulation department at Long Branch.  Welcome, Fred.


Fred Akuffo:  Thank you.


David Payne:  And David Watts from the circulation department at Silver Spring library.  Welcome, David.


David Watts:  Good to be here.


David Payne:  I should actually say welcome back because listeners may remember David as a host on Library Matters last year.


David Watts:  It’s good to be back.


David Payne:  And as I mentioned Fred and David are two of our greatest movie buffs in the library system, so we look forward to hearing from you about the movies today on what is a very gray February Wednesday just a right day for watching movies.


David Watts:  Let’s light this thing up.


David Payne:  That's right.  So let’s start with a bit about yourselves.  Fred, may if I can turn to you tell us about yourself and your passion for movies.


Fred Akuffo:  Okay, well I'm Fred Akuffo.  I work at the Long Branch library.  I’ve been an extreme movie fan for all my life.  I like watching movies that a lot of people don't like watching those are my favorite kind.  I like movies off the beaten path like a lot of my friends don't watch cowboy movies anymore, but those are my favorites.  I like movies where the director makes the most out of a low budget.  Those are my kind of movies.


So B-Movies are very fun to me to see what they can do with the limited resources they have.  But then again, I also like movies that are very compelling too.  So movies that go on a different angle than your usual movie out there.  So I like them to steer me in a way I wasn't expecting.  But again, I pretty much watch anything that's out there.  I even though watch La La Land would surprise me.  So yeah, I'm up for a pretty much anything when it comes to film.


David Payne:  That’s great.  Thank you and David.


David Watts:  I'm a classic movie lover who it’s my side passion just to go to the movies.  I can remember my first movie my aunt took me to see Sound of Music in 1965, at the Silver Theatre, which is now the AFI in Silver Spring and it’s a great place to watch a movie.  I go to probably 30 movies a year.  I'm more the big budget type.  So Fred, where I’m weak, Fred is strong.


David Payne:  All right, let’s blend, let’s blend.


Julie Dina:  That’s good.


David Watts:  I date my life according to what movie was out at the moment.  My right of passage was Star Wars in 1977 I was 16.


David Payne:  And still going.


David Watts:  And still going.  Took my wife to see Color Purple that was our first movie together.


Julie Dina:  Yeah, nice color.


David Watts:  So, yeah, can remember different times of my life based on the movie that was out, yeah.


David Payne:  Yeah, that’s great.  Well, we got two very interesting magnificent people I’d say which is great.


Julie Dina:  The key thing is they balance each other.  [Laughs] So since you guys are movie buffs I'm sure you're aware of the Academy Awards.  So can you tell us what you enjoy most or least about the Academy Awards, what is something you really enjoyed?


Fred Akuffo:  Well, the least I enjoy about the Academy Awards is I don't think they give all of film the same look.  For example, you’ll have your urban street films.  I watch Urbanstreet Films on YouTube a lot and there is a lot of them.  But you know, because of the poor acting sometimes the directing isn’t is up to par.  But some of them are great stories and you'll never see any kind of mention.  It’s not that they have to win or anything but you’ll never see any kind of mention of Urbanstreet film or somebody trying to promote that.  The subject matter isn’t all that great but training days Urbanstreet film.  And Denzel Washington had a win for that.  So there is room for it.  So I think they still need to branch out more to some of the more unpopular areas of film making.


David Watts:  I think they're searching to be more inclusive part of what limits that or the rules that govern the Academy motion picture arts and sciences.  You know, they have 6000 members who are voting members and not all of them are with the current culture.  So I think they have tried to -- recently they voted to put a limit on how long you can have not actually been in a movie and still vote, which is 10 years now.  So I think that's going to increase the diversity.


Another requirement that probably keeps a lot of street movies out is most people don't realize this but only motion pictures that have had a seven day run in Los Angeles qualify to be in the Academy Awards voting.  So if you commercially can get your film into a theater for seven days there is no way that is going to be viewed or voted on by the Academy.  So I think they are hopeful to broaden themselves and I think we see our whole culture evolving.  So certainly you would hope they would become much more diverse.


David Payne:  So do you think I mean, we’re now in the 90th year of the Oscars and obviously times have changed considerably since the earlier years, do you think it's a case of the Academy is sort of struggling to keep up?


Fred Akuffo:  No, I think it’s actually kind of what Dave just mentioned.  I mean, when you go by a certain rules for so long sometimes you have to evaluate your rules.  You know, it’s like everything, business, whatever, Amazon changed the rules, Netflix changed the rules.  And it’s probably a good thing that the Academy has taken at least some steps towards you know –.


David Watts:  Yeah, and I think 2016 was instructive for them when they had their “wide out” and it sort of awaken them to need to refresh the rules that were governing their body and to try to be more towards what the public likes but not so much, not so much.  And that’s his challenge you know that's the part for me.  I enjoy seeing movie stars.  I enjoy seeing people in our culture who are larger than life.  And I'm not putting them up on a pedestal but I mean, they’re attractive people and they live a glamorous lifestyle.  And while we might not aspire to that you do have to admire it in some sense.  So I think that's the great thing about the Oscars to me.


Julie Dina:  How about you Fred, what do you like about it?


Fred Akuffo:  Well, like that is a gaze to success.  So you know, it's something that you're aiming for or maybe not aiming for but if you can achieve, then you can be put in a group with other folks who’ve done so.  And if you can achieve more than once, then you can actually change movies and change film, change future direction in movies.  So whereas one film may have never gotten a look at one moment 15 years later ago now everybody is doing it so you know sometimes it can be a motivator.


David Payne:  So let's turn to this year's Academy Awards.  What do you think of this year's Academy Award nominees? Let's start with David.


David Watts:  I've seen eight of the 10 nominees.  I think it's probably on the scale of most years a weak crop.  There is really not a blockbuster.  They tend to be more towards the eclectic artsy side.  Many would say a more towards the MD side of the business.  So each of them make a statement and that’s the important thing about movies is what do they say to us as a culture and as a people.  And what do we use as a launchpad for conversations based on our seeing those movies and relating to them.


David Payne:  Fred, any thoughts?


Fred Akuffo:  I agree.  I don't think it was as strong as is before.  I notice that this year I don't hear people talking about man, you’ve just got to see this you know or you just got to see that and I know this one is going to win.  To me there is more of an up in the air feeling this year in terms of the nominees.  So but I don’t mind that I mean, you know to me being more up in the air is actually better.  It just gives more motivation for people to push and making their films more distinctive.  It's I think is still moving forward is just this is not the hottest year so far.


Julie Dina:  Maybe next year.


Fred Akuffo:  Yeah, there is always next year that’s the great part of our film, there is always next year and people start working on it now.


Julie Dina:  Is there any movie that was actually nominated that you’ve seen that either of you have seen but think hardly anyone else has seen yet and could you tell us about that movie?


David Watts:  I think you probably consider the whole crop.  I mean, this was a terrible year at the box office.  There are historically low box office figures for this year.  So I think you would be certainly able to say that about most of the films that are in the best picture category.  I saw Three Billboards in Ebbing Missouri, which is on its face, not a title, it causes you to run out and buy a movie ticket, but it was an excellent movie.  Probably the biggest budget one in the top 10, The shape of Water of seeing Shape of Water.  So I presume that most of the movie going public is going to be basing its opinions based on whether or not they've seen Shape of Water because that certainly will be the ones that the movie industry is behind and pumping to try to see win as many categories as possible to try to get people to go to the movies and see it.


Fred Akuffo:  Actually, I think I'll also add Moonlight.  I think there is quite a few people that haven’t seen Moonlight.


David Watts:  Yeah.


Fred Akuffo:  Good movie.  I didn't even want to see it but after watching it I was you know –.


David Watts:  I thought it was terribly depressing.  [Laughs] And I think halfway through when they said well, we call the wrong movie its Moonlight.  I said, oh my goodness.


Fred Akuffo:  Yeah.


David Watts:  That was probably my least favorite from last year.


Fred Akuffo:  Yeah, that's kind of my thing though.  I like movies that you know some people when they’re going through it they’re really going through it for real.  And that’s one movie where if you come out of that at the end of the movie it’s like come on, it doesn't really work like that.  You know, what I mean.  So I like movies that represent some of what people are really, really dealing with.  And it's still an extreme case, you know that movie but –.


David Watts:  I don't think people like to go to the movie and feel bad when they leave.


Fred Akuffo:  That’s true, that’s true.


David Watts:  And that’s always been my thing.  I never really been much in the Spike Lee because he always ends his movies on a downbeat.  And you spend your hard-earned money you want to come out feeling like your life is better somehow for having seen the movie.


Fred Akuffo:  Right.


David Watts:  And that was just my take on Moonlight.


Fred Akuffo:  For me sometimes it's I'm glad that's not me and so my life is better.  [Laughs]


Julie Dina:  That’s another way to think.


David Watts:  Things aren’t so great.


Fred Akuffo:  That’s right I can go out of here.  Man, I'm glad I'm not him.  Okay, okay.


David Payne:  With your two very different interests in movies here is an interesting question, what's the most obscure Oscar-winning movie you've ever watched?


David Watts:  Come on Mr. B-Movies.


Fred Akuffo:  Now Quentin Tarantino, has he gotten any of them?


David Watts:  As best picture, no.


Fred Akuffo:  Yeah, okay.


Julie Dina:  He didn’t get one for the Pulp Fiction.


David Watts:  Wait a minute, I’ve got my cheat sheet here.  Pulp Fiction, no.


Fred Akuffo:  Or the one with Jamie Foxx.


Julie Dina:  Django.


Fred Akuffo:  Django.


David Watts:  No, certainly not.  [Laughs].  Surely you jest. I saw the most obscure movies obviously to American movie public are the foreign films and I saw Indochine in ’92 that was a very good movie.  It was about French Indochina in the 1920s.  And the female lead in that movie god, her name gets away from me, she is very popular.  But anyways she'd raised a child.  She'd raised an orphan and they later fell in love with the same soldier, which was made for an interesting kind of dynamic –.


Fred Akuffo:  Okay.


David Payne:  Sounds very complicated.


David Watts:  Yeah, it’s very complicated and the movie didn't end with a conclusion that allows you to close your mind to this particular movie.  But it was a very good movie and it won for best foreign film in 1992.  And I thought it was a particularly good movie.


Fred Akuffo:  Yeah.


David Watts:  Then another obscure one maybe not so obscure was Hidden Dragon.


Fred Akuffo:  Yeah, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, yeah.


David Watts:  Crouching Tiger won for foreign film I think in 2000 I’m not positive on the year on that but that was a very good movie, very entertaining.


Julie Dina:  I really liked that.


David Watts:  Yeah, for kids who grew up with Bruce Lee movies it was particularly gratifying to see.


Fred Akuffo:  Yeah, I liked that a lot because I’m a heavy, heavy martial arts film enthusiast.


David Watts:  So you could really get into that and relate to that one, yeah.


Fred Akuffo:  I could get into that.


David Watts:  And flying, kicking scenes and all.


Fred Akuffo:  Not as much the flying around and stuff because I'm more of the –.


David Watts:  The true martial arts.


Fred Akuffo:  The pre Bruce Lee type.  So I actually think Bruce Lee destroyed martial arts film because he cause a fight scenes to end in like one second whereas before it would be like two minutes for a fight scene to take place.  So you know, I'll keep my [Multiple Speakers].  But yeah, that was one.  One I thought was obscure and probably because I didn't know anything at all about I guess the culture but The Piano I think won, right.


David Watts:  Yes.


Fred Akuffo:  And at the time I watched I found it obscure.


David Payne:  It takes a bit of re-watching.


Fred Akuffo:  Yeah.


Julie Dina:  And now a brief message about MCPL services and resources.


Febe Huezo:  Watching the Oscars or Golden Globe Award ceremonies is fun to do with friends.  But it's even better to watch the films themselves.  With my MCPL card I can borrow award-winning movies for free.  There is nothing better than browsing the DVD collection at my library.  Stop by our branch today or check this episode show notes for more information about our DVD collection.


Julie Dina:  Now back to our program.


David Payne:  Well, Oscars certainly has a history of going counterculture and so you always have to be careful of that.  When the artist won in 2012, I think I broke my TV because it was –.


Fred Akuffo:  The black and white or --.


David Watts:  Well, no and not even for that reason I mean, I've watched extensively silent movies and that wasn't a particularly good silent movie.  But that was the hot or in thing just let us last year with lot I mean, a year before last with La La Land we got the same thing.  La La Land was okay but if you're really in the movies and you're really into musicals La La Land sucked.  Excuse me, if I shouldn’t say that.


Julie Dina:  So as we are all aware especially both of you there are 24 categories in the Oscars.  If you could change or add to any of them what exactly would it be?


Fred Akuffo:  Fight choreography would be one I’d put in.  I think they need to think about that kind of quality in the movies.  You know, when you have action you wanted to look as real as possible.


David Watts:  Absolutely.


Fred Akuffo:  Well, maybe not.  Sometimes you wanted to look as vague as possible, but within passing reality if that makes any sense.  Sometimes the Return of the Jedi, the fight scenes look great.  I mean, that returned into the Star Wars fighting looks great.  But then in the next movie is a different fight choreography and it doesn't look so hot.  But if they were let's say a category for that you’d always make it look good.  So you know it would make for better action movies.  You know, what I mean.  And then one I don't necessarily need is the sound group or whatever you know that always wins.  They can win it but you don’t need like 15 minutes in the show to show it.  But I’m sure those sound guys work hard so they deserve it.


David Watts:  Yes and big ups to our sound guys.  [Laughs]


Fred Akuffo:  There is a place, sorry.


David Watts:  I would say we need to add a comic con section because we have all of these superheroes now and certainly I think they need a category unto themselves where their movies aren’t judged against the dramatic movies.


David Payne:  So looking ahead to this year's awards you both mentioned it doesn't look like a great year as far as the movie quality.  But can you guess which movie will take home the most Oscars this year?


David Watts:  It would be Shape of Water.  I mean, it's a big budget film with a big studio behind it.  I believe it's nominated for 13 Academys of which it probably will take home seven to eight.  The juries do allow over whether it's the best picture.  The female leading actress who did a phenomenal job probably is going to lose to Frances McDormand who will win for Three Billboards.  The male lead did a particularly good job but he is not there yet.  He will probably win in a year or two.  This year belongs to Gary Oldman who will win for Darkest Hour.  His performance was phenomenal although it was hard to believe that he was Winston Churchill.  No, slide aside the prosthetics were not very good but his performance was excellent.  Winston Churchill certainly is a historic figure renowned for his strength of will and force of character and Oldman did an excellent job portraying that.


David Payne:  Fred, any thoughts?


Fred Akuffo:  Yeah and I haven't got into those yet.  Although I do think the subject matter for Billboards will probably have some to do with.  I think people you know there is like a non-trusting aspect in society now for different authorities, different entities and things like that.  And that kind of speaks to it on you know make sure these people do what they say they’re going to do it all that kind of thing.  So I think that'll have some to do with in impact.


David Watts:  Yeah, Michael Sharon was the actor I couldn't think of who was in Shape of Water and is nominated for best actor.  I don't think he will win, but I think he is coming.  He is in more and more feature films and he does an excellent job portraying the characters.  I do think that Margot Robbie is making some heads turn so while she won't win as best actress she is another one who is on the way.  She is establishing herself.


Julie Dina:  Okay, so on another note, since that we know our customers will be listening to this podcast they’ll probably come run into the branches.  What are you both doing at your branches to celebrate the Oscars?


Fred Akuffo:  Well, at my branch we have a display at the front of the circ desk that's off from the DVD collection.  And that display has what I would call the higher-quality newer movies sitting on it.  So these are movies that are 2018, ‘17 that by customer rating rate over a certain amount.  And I find that folks as soon as they come through the door shoot right to that display get their things and get their movies that they're looking for that they are surprised to see sometimes and then head on out.  So other the Oscar movies are on there along with some other movies that are of the same quality but maybe just not as popular.  So just one little thing you do that kind of boost that level of interest for those people who enjoy film.


David Payne:  And just a reminder that’s at Long Branch.


Fred Akuffo:  Long Branch library, yeah.


Julie Dina:  You also serve popcorn?


Fred Akuffo:  No, not yet.  But I do give suggestions and our oral reviews of the ones that I have watched off of that display rack which people seem to enjoy.  And also they’ll bring it over and ask me, what do you think about this, what do you think about that and they want to know what I really think.  You know what I mean.  So I try to give them my best on that.


David Payne:  So there you have the listeners you want to about a movie go to Long Branch.


Julie Dina:  Go to Long Branch.  How about you David?


David Watts:  Yeah, we’re putting out a book display I just talked with our senior librarian and we’re doing a book display on the books that were adapted into movies To Kill a Mockingbird, Godfather, which is my all-time favorite.  There is several books that have been adapted and we’re going to feature those books in a display near our circulation desk.


David Payne:  So let's look ahead further into the year and pause the Oscars themselves.  Which 2018 to be released films are you both looking for to seeing?


David Watts:  I never look ahead.  I hate to be a kill joy.


Fred Akuffo:  You just name as they come.


David Watts:  Well, yeah, I focus on what's current what’s out although I'm sure there are some interesting things coming.  My daughter was telling me that the follow-up to Justice League is the optimal war or something along those lines.  And I assured her it won't be a final one.  She said, dad, this is the last one.  I said, no, it’s not.


David Payne:  Just like Star Wars.


David Watts:  It’s not the last one.


David Payne:  Fred.


Fred Akuffo:  I’m looking forward to the Hans Solo part of that.  I guess it’s part of that series.


David Watts:  Yes.


David Payne:  So, I like the last one they did so which surprised me because I didn't like Rogue One, but yeah, they build on it.  I think it'll win.  Everybody wants to know the origin know of Hans Solo of what, who in the world he is so I think it’ll be another successful one.


Julie Dina:  So it's obvious you guys watch a lot of movies.  However, I am wondering, do you actually go to the movie theater to watch these movies and if you do, do you prefer watching it on the big screen compared to watching it at home?


Fred Akuffo:  This feels like a confessional.  [Multiple Speakers] No, I'm probably not like my man Dave here.  I don’t do 30 a year.  And I definitely don’t do them at the movie theater just because you know I got two kids.  By the time I'm getting out there we’re talking like $90 you know what I mean.  So it's a little bit pricey.


David Payne:  Oh, you can't take them for it.  Your passion is not their passion.


Fred Akuffo:  Surprisingly my son is definitely a movie guy.  He comes to me and says hey, dad, you got to check this new movie out.


Julie Dina:  Wow.


Fred Akuffo:  And he is when I'm talking about films he is very eager to hear what I think about them.  So for like The Avengers, The Justice Leagues you know and I tell him things like, you know, I don’t like those guys because or Batman, let’s put the Batman.  I’m not a fan of Batman.  And he is like how can you not be a fan of Batman.  I’m like because Batman didn’t have any superpowers.  And so he is very interested in why I don't like certain things and he looks forward to seeing movies that I do like so that he can see how else he can experience the movies.  You know, what I mean.  So it’s kind of interesting.  But yeah, going to the theater is a little bit challenging, more challenging than it was when I was younger so.


Julie Dina:  Have you thought about coupons?


Fred Akuffo:  Yeah, I would need it.  I would need a $30 coupon you know, right.  I mean, we’re talking about I mean, when I was going to the theatre it’s like you could go to a dollar theater, dollar movie.


Julie Dina:  It’s true.


David Payne:  No such thing.


Julie Dina:  I used to go to go to those.


Fred Akuffo:  Now, a dollar you can’t even –.


Julie Dina:  You can buy popcorn.


Fred Akuffo:  Nothing, you know, there is nothing for a dollar.  In fact the candy is almost as much as the movie.  So it’s tremendous.


David Watts:  Well, let me tell you my secret.


Fred Akuffo:  Okay, give me one.


David Watts:  We live parallel lives here so I do know that you get a day off during a week and if you go to the first show AMC is $5, okay.


Fred Akuffo:  Okay.


David Watts:  So as long as you don’t drag your crumb snatchers along, it's a pretty reasonable venture and it’s a good escape and it also helps I think center you given your responsibilities and duties this in the library.


Fred Akuffo:  Definitely.


David Watts:  You need some time alone.  You need some destressing and that's what I use the movies for.  I watch movies at home and at the movies I watch classic movies at home and really that's my forte.


Julie Dina:  I love classic movies.


David Watts:  I’m a classic movie watcher of the 100 or so movies that have been best picture I've seen 98 of the 100.  So that's because I really get into classic movies.  The modern movies I like the ones who are near the top of the crop.  Not so much like Fred, I'm not digging down in the bargain bin to watch your first effort.


Fred Akuffo:  I love the bargain bin.


David Watts:  Yeah, I’m not doing that.  But one of the things that has changed with movies overtime is dialog has changed and as you talked about sound, the reason they give those awards for sound is because it's particularly difficult to balance dialog and sound effects.  And when you go to the theater you’ll because of Dolby technology you’ll hear that thumping base but then you'll get to the dialog part as Mark is motioning to me speak up, speak up, speak up and that's how you know you really didn't have the best sound guy.


Fred Akuffo:  Right.


David Watts:  And you don't have that with the classic movies.  The classic movies used smaller ensemble cast.  It was easy to understand who the characters were and they had to play off of each other.  Now, you have huge amounts of cast in movies you know that are in double digits that they never did.  In the classic age of movies they never had more than 10 actors in a movie.  So it was very easy to know the characters, to know the plot, to understand, to not have your brains blown out by base in the sound effects.  They threw in sound effects, but they weren’t for the purposes of waking people up as they are now.  They used the sound effects in modern movies to keep a somnolent moviegoer from falling asleep.


Fred Akuffo:  So to me, I look at as a little different.  Like let's take John Wick pure action.  There is nothing to think about except what you’re looking at in front of you.  The sound part, although I don't --.


David Watts:  But John Wick is ultraviolet.  You could not have taken your kids today.


Fred Akuffo:  No, no, we didn’t go to that long way.


David Watts:  Please tell me you did not take your –.


Fred Akuffo:  That’s my $5 I bought myself.  [Laughs] But that one where they shoot the guns and you can hear the bullet shells hit the floor, you know that's where your sound and dialog that you know for so John Wick there is no dialog.  So that's kind of where I look forward to, you know, the sound even though I don't want them to take 15 minutes in the award ceremony.  But so I do appreciate them but yeah, there is a catch, Catch-22 to all that, I guess you know.


David Payne:  Okay, so we usually end our interviews asking the guests what they are reading right now.  Perhaps we should ask you what you’re watching Fred.


Fred Akuffo:  Let's see.  The last thing I watched DVD I watched was a series called Insecure.  You know, I’m finding the series to be pretty entertaining as well as you know the feature films.  So I'm getting into a lot of the series.  So Insecure is about a young lady trying to manage her young life in the workforce in I guess is Los Angeles with all of what society has to offer some of it pleasant, some of it not so pleasant.


It's one that a lot of the young folks are watching.  Other series like you know Newsroom, Deadwood different series that talked about different things that I don't really experience.  I’m not in the new circuit.  I'm not in the wild frontier, but those movies did a very good job of depicting those particular types of lifestyle.  So I like watching series for that kind of thing to be transported in a believable sense to another place.


David Payne:  Great and David.


David Watts:  Well, I'm doing it all.  I consume it in every way possible.  Last movie, All The King’s Men with Broderick Crawford 1949 Oscar winner.  I just finished Midnight Line by Lee Child is part of a Jack Reacher series.  I’m reading Origin by Dan Brown, big Dan Brown fan.  So yeah, whatever way I can get content I’m upon it.


David Payne:  Sounds like you have it.


David Watts:  I have it, yeah.


Fred Akuffo:  I’d tell you one of my latest watches that I really liked was Fences.  I thought that was a different kind of look for somebody who is a major film player.  So I thought Denzel playing a broken guy who –.


David Watts:  Well, he actually won the Tony for that performance.  He should've won the Oscar.


Fred Akuffo:  He should have, yeah.


David Watts:  He should have won the Oscar and that was my disappointment with Moonlight, yes.


Fred Akuffo:  Right, because I thought it was very well done.  I thought it was realistic.  You know, I thought it was –.


David Watts:  It was passionate.


Fred Akuffo:  I thought it was a passionate centered performance you know, and the compelling part was that he wasn't running away or he didn’t let the character run away from you know life’s ills.


David Watts:  Then he should have won best actor for that that Casey Affleck won for Manchester by the Sea which was another depressing movie.  Denzel was robbed but he has been robbed many times during his career.  He was robbed in Hurricane when Kevin Spacey beat him out for American Beauty.  He was also robbed for his performance in Malcolm X.  He is certainly was well deserving for Fences, yes, absolutely.


Fred Akuffo:  So if you’re dad out there pick up Fences it’s a good one.


David Watts:  And I just wanted so you know he is the actor of my time.  You know, a lot of people where Daniel Day-Lewis is nominated this year for Phantom Thread and that was a disappointing movie and a disappointing performance from Daniel Day-Lewis.  But those are two penultimate actors of my age group.


Fred Akuffo:  Daniel Day-Lewis is definitely my guy too, yeah definitely.


David Watts:  Yeah, he is Denzel and Daniel Day-Lewis and you know that's one of the wonderful things about movies.  I can look back at different eras and see people who dominated the movies during those periods.  Sidney Poitier, he was particularly strong actor in the 60s.  You go in the 40s it was Bogey.  You go in the 50s, Brando, On The Waterfront.  So it’s just amazing to look back over your life and see how these artists affect you both visually and you know viscerally because they do.  You go to the movies and you feel emotive.  You want to express yourself as you come out.  You go to a love story and you feel love.  You go to a tearjerker and you come out crying.


Fred Akuffo:  Yeah, I got some stuck in my throat.


David Watts:  Yeah, exactly, you’re not crying.  My wife always says, yeah, crying over there, are you?


Fred Akuffo:  Well, I cannot swallow, you know.  [Laughs] Actually that’s how I give a movie credit.  If it can make me tough to swallow then I know you did something.


David Watts:  Brian's Song, right?


Fred Akuffo:  Well, more like let’s say De Niro in um, is it the Awakening when he was they were trying some research Robert Williams and De Niro, yeah that was a that had me swallowing and trying, yeah, I couldn’t get it down.


Julie Dina:  But you weren’t crying.


Fred Akuffo:  Yeah, I’m not all the way, not all the way, yeah.


Julie Dina:  Well, this has been very, very entertaining and I would like to thank you David and Fred for joining us today.


Fred Akuffo:  No, we’re happy to be here.


David Watts:  Thank you for having us, yeah.


Julie Dina:  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 new Apple podcast app, Stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts.  Also, please review and rate us on Apple podcasts would love to know what you think.  Thank you for listening to our conversation today.  See you next time.

Feb 27, 2018

Episode Summary: MCPL film fans Fred Akuffo, circulation manager at Long Branch library, and David Watts, circulation manager at Silver Spring library, look at this year's Academy Award contenders, consider past award winners, and share their love for very different kinds of movies. 

Recording Date: Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Hosts: Julie Dina and David Payne

Featured MCPL Resource: Enjoy movie night at home with one (or more) of MCPL's thousands of feature film DVDs. From Batman to Bollywood, we've got movies for every film fan. Check out our latest movies and television series today!  

What Our Guests Are Reading / Watching:

Fred Akuffo: Insecure, an HBO series starring Issa Rae. Newsroom, a behind the scenes look at a fictional cable news program. Deadwood, a Western tv series set in 1870s South Dakota. Fences, in which an African American former baseball player watches others break the color barrier in Major League Baseball.  

David Watts: All the King's Men, a 1940s film about a corrupt populist politician. David has also recently read Midnight Line, the latest Jack Reacher thriller by Lee Child and Origin, the new Dan Brown novel. 

Movies Mentioned During this Episode

American Beauty

The Artist


Brian's Song

The Color Purple The movie is based on a book by Alice Walker.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

Darkest Hour 

Django Unchained

The Godfather

The Hurricane


Justice League

La La Land

The Last Jedi

Malcolm X

Manchester by the Sea


On the Waterfront

Phantom Thread

The Piano

Pulp Fiction 

Rogue One

The Shape of Water

Solo: a Star Wars Story

Star Wars: a New Hope

Suicide Squad 

To Kill a Mockingbird

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri

Training Day

John Wick

Actors and Actresses Mentioned During this Episode

Casey Affleck

Humphrey Bogart

Marlon Brando

Broderick Crawford

Robert De Niro

Bruce Lee

Spike Lee

Daniel Day-Lewis

Frances McDormand

Gary Oldman

Sidney Poitier

Margot Robbie

Michael Shannon

Kevin Spacey

Quentin Tarantino

Denzel Washington

Robin Williams

Other Items of Interest Mentioned During this Episode

2018 Oscar Nominees

The Academy Awards (Oscars) 

Academy Awards for Best Picture winners

AFI Silver Theatre in Silver Spring, MD

B-Movies - A favorite movie genre of guest Fred Akuffo

 Read the transcript

Feb 14, 2018

Listen to the audio

David Payne:  Welcome to Library Matters with your host David Payne.


Julie Dina:  And I’m Julie Dina. 


David Payne:  And for today's episode we’re going to be talking about romance just in time for Valentine's Day.  And joining me today I have two I have romance readers from our MCPL staff both Children’s Librarians at our Silver Spring branch Carly Beveridge.


Carly Beveridge:  Hi, everybody.  It’s nice to be here today. 


David Payne:  And Michelle Halber. 


Michelle Halber:  Hello, thank you so much for having us. 


David Payne:  And thank you very much for joining us.  Let’s start with a bit about yourselves, why do you both like romance books?


Carly Beveridge:  I started reading romance novels back in high school.  I think they're just kind of sometimes it’s just an escape to read them.  The nice thing is they have so many different mixes with different genres.  And they have you can find great stories and great characters. 


Michelle Halber:  I started actually much later.  I was a snob about romance novels when I was younger.  But as I've gotten older I have three kids and I definitely like to have the happy ever after and it's just fun.  You can read the historicals where you get pretty clothes and pretty dresses and lots of friendships and then you can read the contemporaries and it just is a lot more fun to read that something that's a little bit lighter and not as heavy. 


Julie Dina:  Would you then say that thank God for romance books now you have your three kids. 


Michelle Halber:  I've never got it that way.  [Laughs] But yes, actually they do help keep me more safe. 


David Payne:  Obviously, a new way of thinking there.


Michelle Halber:  There is a new way of thinking.  I love my historicals.  I love the children’s books but it’s just so especially right before bed, it's just a way for me to relax.  I know I don't have to necessarily worry I can get into a story.  They can still be engrossing.  There can still be some thriller types or romantic suspense novels.  But I know I don't have to worry about whether the heroine or the hero is going to survive till the end of the story. 


Carly Beveridge:  Well, I can say even as a single person that God for themselves [Laughs].  I think that’s a nice thing about them is that anybody can really pick them up and there is such a wide variety even just for anybody.  So I enjoy them.  The nice thing is with my family we kind of go, hey, this is a good one to read and my dad and I even share them like my mom and I and my dad and I we share them and say hey, this is a good one because we look for good stories, not just hey, this is that it’s very typical body stripper where it is just what they call the smut book or it’s just nothing but hey, they’re romping around in the sheets.  [Laughs] So we look for like this and the good characters, the good story just like any good book.  So like I said my family we share them around.  And Michelle and us one of the things we’ve started talking about we share authors back and forth and hey, this is a good book so, yeah. 


Julie Dina:  That’s really cute. 


David Payne:  That’s great.  But awful family reading. 


Carly Beveridge:  Yeah.


David Payne:  So we’ll know in our heads what a romance novel is.  But let me ask you, maybe start with Michelle, how would you define a romance book?


Michelle Halber:  That's one of the really nice things about romance is they’re not.  There is no one definition of a romance book even in Montgomery County Public Library systems you will find romance novel, you will find books about romance or books that have romance in it in the fiction shelves, in the romance shelves even in the science fiction shelves.  So there is not really one type of book, there is romance with a little bit of supernatural, there is romance with there are stories Philippa Gregory's books could be kind of considered she has written a whole bunch of stuff on the Tudors about the wives and of Henry VIII and that could be considered in some ways romance.  It may not necessarily and happily but it’s still there is still romance in it.  Just about any book could be considered to be a romance book.  And that's I think one of the things that a lot of people don't realize in a story.  I mean, you can pull up a James Patterson or a Victor Flynn and there is some kind of romance somewhere.  Indiana Jones, there is romance in that so part of that is a romance whether it is considered a romance novel or not. 


David Payne:  So typically a romance novel can cross several genres.


Michelle Halber:  It can cross every genre. 


David Payne:  Yeah, would you agree?


Carly Beveridge:  Yes, I would agree the nice thing about romance is that it has many sub genres.  I’m going to give you the definition for the romance novel itself.  It has to do with a plot that actually centers around two individuals falling in love but there has to be an emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending.  Now lately there has been some disagreement between authors whether or not there actually has to be that optimistic ending whether there has to be a happy ending or not.  Because not everything you know not everybody like the Tutors that kind of stuff.  There Philippa Gregory, her books, you know, can be considered romance, but there is not always a happy ending.  So you know, not every romance situation is going to be a happy ending.  But so people are more open to that kind of stuff now.


David Payne:  Is that a newer trend?


Carly Beveridge:  Yes, that is a newer trend, yes. 


Julie Dina:  And you’re one.  [Laughs] So while we’re still on the topic, what are the typical characteristics of a romance literature?


Carly Beveridge:  Okay, so the typical characteristics.  So obviously you’re going to have two we tend to have two main characters.  A lot of times it’s either told first person, third person point of view.  Doesn’t it mean once what do you think Michelle?


Michelle Halber:  Traditionally there is going to be an expectation of a happy ending.  There will be some kind of arc in terms of a meeting whether it's brand-new or whether it's a past love and then usually right around the midway point in the book is where the relationship really starts to deepen and then it’s usually some kind of conflict.  It's just like any traditional novel because I forgot the question.  But the typical characteristics so it’s just like any traditional novel.  And that's I think part of why I don't necessarily understand the negative stereotype because it really is a traditional novel.  It's just gotten a bad wrap over the years I think.


Julie Dina:  Why do you think?


Michelle Halber:  I think it has to do with back, you know, back when they first really started coming out back in what was 1800s, early 1900s it was seen more as a you know we be woman's kind of book to pass the time is kind of a frivolous type book.  So I think that's kind of where it started and then a lot of people they look at some of the I think the Harlequin type series where they see those just the covers and go oh, that doesn’t look like a good reading.  And a lot of times if you get into the books those covers look absolutely nothing like what the characters depict inside even look like.  So it’s just really taking the time just like any book, you got to look at read the first chapter see what it's about, look read the inside cover.  So you got to look past the cover of the book, which is why a lot of times when somebody is looking for when I'm helping customers and patrons a lot of times if somebody is looking for a light read I will hand them something like Kristan Higgins, which my favorite of hers is The Best Man, it’s a cute story, it’s lot of fun, nothing serious. 


But it's just got a picture of a boy and a girl and they're just standing around.  And so it's not and I've had a customer say, oh, good it's not a shirtless man that’s on the cover, yeah.  So it’s a nice way of kind of leading them in and not I think the e-readers have made a huge difference in this.  I think this is when 50 Shades became so big was because people could read it on their e-reader until nobody knew what they were reading.  And it's a little bit less intimidating than somebody seeing you on the subway with a shirtless man covered book, right.  But that's part of it I think is that not the shirtless men covered books are not good because they are but it makes some people hesitant to take them seriously


Julie Dina:  And they might catch a cold.  [Laughs]


David Payne:  Leaving nothing to the imagination.  So with that let’s go to our big question.  I’ll start with you, Carly.  Do you have a favorite romance author and novel?


Carly Beveridge:  Oh, okay, yeah, Michelle and I’ve been talking about this for a while.  So I don’t know just like it's really hard to pinpoint.  I have a couple of favorite readers authors that I go to.  I really like Lynsay Sands, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Kerrelyn Sparks.  I tend to like the more paranormal kind of like a vampire, werewolf those kinds of stories.  And I like the series stories where you get to continue on with familiar characters.  So I tend to go with those.  But I also like The Outlander series so that’s more of your historical time travel.  I am a – I like reading all kinds of different stuff.  Also my family is also Scottish, so that throws that there in too.  But honestly I’ll go into library or Barnes & Noble or even the grocery store and I'll look at the books and I’m like oh, I haven't seen this one yet.  So I'll turn the book over and I’ll start looking at it.  But yeah, like I’ve said, I need good characters, I need a good story.  If I see like I’m kind of turned away by characters that are like oh, she is just sitting there just crying that’s not going to do it for me.  I like strong characters. 


She is getting up a lot of the ones in like some of Lynsay Sands characters or female characters they’re vampires and they get how they have connections they have life mates.  And the guy would then go, I’m here and you're my life mate and you go like, no, you’re not.  [Laughs] I don’t know what you’re talking about.  So like I said, I like the strong characters and they’re set in more I'm fine with contemporary modern times, and like I said with The Outlander, what's neat with that one is it skips around between Scotland and World War II England and World War I and then I also my family they’ve read all the books too.  So like I said, my family we share books and we also watch the TV series too.  So yeah, those are some of my favorites.  Lately, I've also been going to Overdrive, one of our e-reading.  I'll go for more for the audio books for that to download the audio books just because I have a nice long drive to and from work. 


So it’s great with my car.  And I've got one of the cars with the Bluetooth sinking between my phone and my car so I can listen through my car which is very nice.  I go to Overdrive to download the books and several of those authors are on there.  We may not be able to find it on the shelf at the library.  So I'll go there and get the audio book or the e-book and the nice thing too is I've made requests there for purchases to be made.  And I’ve got notifications that they've been requested.  So that's been really nice too.  So we can always get the requested at the library, but we can get it on Overdrive.


David Payne:  And Michelle?


Michelle Halber:  For contemporary my favorite author is Kristen Ashley.  And there is only just a few of hers that's available through Overdrive.  She has got a couple on audio through Overdrive and then one for the e-book.  I do a lot of e-book reading.  I tend to do it a lot more than I do the actual paper copies because I'm going to and from different appointments and shopping the book I’d rather just take the reader it’s a lot easier.  One of the things I do like about Kristen Ashley is that she tends to have more mature characters.  Some of them are past childbearing age.  Some of them are in their mid to late 20s and early 30s.  And that's a more unique population and it's not you know the 18-year-old who was just coming in and the young adult type book.  She is more of an older a lot of her characters tend to be older and she has written a ton of books.  She has written like 50.  For historical, I guess, and only in thinking about all of this if I realize that I probably actually tend to more historical and I had talked to Carly and she tends to do those series. 


And I’m like by book 25 I kind of go by The Harry Potter Rule.  If it’s more than seven oh my god [Multiple Speakers].  Come on.  No, so I kind of like a series to start and end.  You can have some cross meeting of characters from different series and that’s a lot of fun.  But yeah, I’d like a series to end.  I don't want the children of the children or where the next cousins in the town over but we start a new series.  But I do tend to go to historical I really like Julia Quinn.  She has got a lot of humor in her books.  The Viscount I guess who I can’t remember the title is just so funny.  So she has got a lot of humor.  Lisa Kleypas has a series called the Wallflowers Series.  I think it secrets on an autumn night.  I think is book one it’s just four girls who are considered wallflowers for different reasons and they kind of band together and it’s much about friendship as it is about love. 


So you're seeing their relationships with each other develop as well as you’re seeing relationships with partners develop.  For diversity and historical Beverly Jenkins is phenomenal and Alyssa Cole is on a ton of lists as having one of the best romance novels of 2017.  And I'm still in the middle of that because that is a pretty powerful book.  So it's not one that you can just read as easily as you can some of the other romances.  You really do need to sit down to really enjoy it because there is a lot of rich historical detail in there. 


David Payne:  Great, thank you.


Julie Dina:  That’s plenty. 


Michelle Halber:  We should give you more. 


Carly Beveridge:  I’m sure. 


Michelle Halber:  We have lists. 


David Payne:  How much time do we have?


Julie Dina:  I guess this won’t be the time for me to say, tell me more, tell me more.  So with all of this being said, would you say romance novels or romance movies have changed within the past 15, 20 years?


Michelle Halber:  Well, as I said, I have three kids an 18-year-old, a 12-year-old and an 8-year-old.  So I have not [Multiple Speakers] getting out of house was an accomplishment for many, many, many years.  So I cannot tell you about those movies but hopefully Carly can. 


Julie Dina:  Maybe Carly can.  It’s on you Carly.


Carly Beveridge:  I don’t know like as far as movies and TV shows and things like that I think people are still interested in watching like we've still seen redoing things like Jane Austen and those kinds of books.  So there are certain classics, things like that.  I don't think those are going to lose, those are timeless.  We have seen things like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies things like that.  So we've seen kind of some trying to update and get more of the young adult teen interested in that and trying to modernize some of that.  But you’ve gotten things like Bridget Jones Diary, which is considered the chick lit in there.  But I think what you have seen is maybe more acceptance of like the LGBT in with the romance genre with more of those characters with romance movies and TV series, things like that.  I think that’s maybe the big change that we’ve have seen in past several years.


Michelle Halber:  Even Downton Abbey, there was a lot of romance in Downton Abbey.  And the arcs just kept going I mean, when the actor who played Matthew I think his name was left the show, they ended up trying to find that character another guy and that was part of the series.  So they knew that even in something like Downton Abbey part of what was keeping people interested was a type of romance and there is some LGBT in that show.  So they are definitely there are some new conversations that are being added to these books and these movies that make it I think a little bit more unique than there used to be. 


Julie Dina:  I'm glad you mentioned chick lit.  What's the difference, what’s the primary difference between the two, between chick lit and romance?


Michelle Halber:  The main difference is that with chick lit you don't always have to have its not always just to focus on romance between a woman and partner.  A lot of times is more contemporary.  You're looking at usually from the woman's point of view a lot of times it could be between about woman's friendships in her workplace and things like that.  Again one of the iconics is Bridget Jones Diary that that's kind of an iconic chick lit book movie those kind of things.  So I guess it's often the modern womanhood is what you're looking at with chick lit.  You do have kind of a lot of controversy around some chick lit as far as you know is it really a legitimate kind of field and you know whether or not it's worth, you know, is it great to read.


Julie Dina:  I like your expressions here.  [Laughs]


Michelle Halber:  But you know what, it’s very popular.  And those books just they can have great storylines being great characters and strong characters.  So chick lit is I’ll say I think it’s just as important.  Those stories are just as important and people identify with those characters.  So and they a lot of times do have romance and one of the lines that really sticks out in Bridget Jones you know that iconic he likes you just the way you are.  So I love that line.  So it gets flashing but it has great, they have great lines, great stories.  So again, it's your choice what you read. 


Carly Beveridge:  And a lot of romance, especially contemporary romance does have a piece of like a romantic suspense to it either there is some danger and that wouldn't be in the chick lit or there is a kidnapping or I can even think.  But there is more to what's happening in the romance because there can be military romances.  So you could be on the battlefield, which you wouldn't see in a chick lit.  There could be I don’t know sports brawls and all sort of things like that that wouldn't come up in a chick lit type novel.  So especially with the contemporaries and that's usually what chick lit is, it’s usually a contemporary novel.  There is some I hate to say there is sometimes a more depth in the romance then there is a chick lit but that's almost the way it is because there is usually a conflict in the romance that has a little bit stronger than the conflicts that would be in a chick lit that made any sense [Laughs].


David Payne:  Yeah, so perfect sense to me. 


Julie Dina:  Perfect. 


David Payne:  Talking about terminology and I think you mentioned the term earlier called the bodice-ripper. 


Carly Beveridge:  Yeah.


David Payne:  Something is always associated with the romance genre.  Can you talk about what bodice-ripper actually is?


Carly Beveridge:  I think a lot of that stigma has to do with again the whole Fabio covers with the romance.  It’s, you know, just that whole picture in your head of the scene of just the woman's old-style bodice being bulled after like the elaborate sex scene.  But really it's a lot of times in the stories you know that's a very small piece of what's actually happening.  And you have a range from some stories that really there is just some small kissing to all the way to U genre like the erotic genre where it’s more in depth.  But yeah, I think that’s really what it comes down to it’s just that whole stigma of that picture of you know just that scene in people heads. 


Michelle Halber:  And there is actually a sub genre of romance I mean, Carly was talking about some of them, but there is actually something called clean or Christian romance, which is a one without a whole lot of physicality mentioned descriptions or anything like that but it's all still romance.  So it’s not just the bodice-ripper.  It's not just the girl waiting to be saved.  Courtney Milan, who is generally historical I mean, her characters what I love about her stuff and I think we have some of the books at Montgomery County Public Libraries but it’s also Overdrive.  And even some of them are on cloudLibrary as well, which is the other downloadable e-book we can access through Montgomery County Public Libraries with your library card and your pin number, which is usually the year you were born. 


She has got scientists.  She has got just very unique characters.  She has got one woman who was a champion chess player for many years when she was a child.  She has got another one who is a scientist and had to hide her papers under her friends name because he was male and could take all of these really, really intellectual smart women struggling to survive in a time period where that love is difficult.  I don’t even know how we got onto that the bodice-ripper.  [Laughs] But it’s not like these women are necessarily stupid either, so there is just an intelligence about these characters that make it very appealing and it’s not the bodice-ripper is such a we don’t want people to think that that's how we don’t want you to view it that way anymore. 


Carly Beveridge:  Yes.


David Payne:  Somewhat old-fashioned.


Carly Beveridge:  Yes.


Michelle Halber:  It’s an old-fashioned terminology of looking at, yes, there we go, thank you. 


Julie Dina:  There has been a change. 


Lauren Martino:  And now a brief message about MCPL service and resources. 


Lisa Navidi:  This month we celebrate Black History month not only with displays of books and DVDs, but also with special films, speakers, book discussion and a virtual trip from Selma to Montgomery.  There is something for everyone in your family.  You can find a link to our Black History month events and resources in this episode show notes. 


Lauren Martino:  Now back to our program.


Julie Dina:  So do either of you have any favorite romance characters?


Michelle Halber:  Okay, so I’d have to say one of my favorite is Jamie from Outlander.  He is definitely one of my favorites. 


Julie Dina:  Are you in love?


Carly Beveridge:  Yeah, I’ve got part of it, tattooed on my arm.  Part of it’s because I’m Scottish but part of it has to with Outlander.  I love my Outlander.  [Multiple Speakers]


David Payne: Must be that kilt.

Carly Beveridge: Yeah, the kilt, the hair, and the accent.

Julie Dina:  How about you Michelle?


Michelle Halber:  No, I don’t think so.  Well, I'm reading it.  I can follow them with any character. 


Julie Dina:  Yeah.


Carly Beveridge:  But no.


Julie Dina:  That’s good too.  And it could be in the next book.


Carly Beveridge:  Could be.  I could fall in love with the character in the next book and that’s always part of the fun. 


Julie Dina:  And I’m sure, MCPL will have to have book for you. 


David Payne:  So as I mentioned earlier we’re coming up to Valentine's Day.  Do both of you have suggestions for anyone feeling particularly lonely on Valentine’s Day, where would you start?


Michelle Halber:  I would absolutely not have them read a romance novel that might make me feel little lonely but I’ll lead them to a very interesting non-fiction perhaps.  [Laughs] Something interesting, something about somewhat no, my gosh, no of course not.  You think read one the day after they can read one day before but the day of Valentine’s Day, no.  You got your friends.  [Multiple Speakers] The joint motion like all the single ladies thing with Beyonce where they used to I don’t know if they still do.  Don’t quote me where they used to teach the dance for women and men, presumably in their theater at one of their studios on Valentine's Day.  So I would do and the power of being one.  I wouldn’t focus on the fact that you don't necessarily have anybody to spend and I go and have fun, don’t read a romance novel that would be what I would say. 


David Payne:  How do you follow that Carly?


Carly Beveridge:  I'm going to go if I go out, go have fun. 


David Payne:  And there you have it. 


Carly Beveridge:  Why do you do that to yourself?


David Payne:  So do you have or both of you a favorite romance novel trope, is there a trope that you absolutely can’t stand. 


Michelle Halber:  I used to but I used to have these things that I didn't like, like oh please, like again.  But yeah, these authors even when they're doing I mean, there is some that I will shy away from unless it’s an author I really, really trust.  But there is always the surprise baby, there is always the old love, which turns out to be some of the best books I've read.  So I’ve learned not to say no to anything.  I'm willing to try it, that’s the neat thing about romance.  There is the supernatural with Susanna Kearsley there is Lynsay’s and J.R.  Ward is probably right in there for the vampires, right in the ones that Carly would like and there are werewolves and there is historical and it's just there is so much that I’ve learned not to say no to anything I’m willing to try it.  But yeah there is a couple I would be like oh, please but not anymore. 


Julie Dina:  And what about you?


Carly Beveridge:  No, there is not yeah, there is not too many that I won't.  I mean, again like I said I like it to actually have a story just like any book.  I wanted to have a good storyline.  If I start reading it and I feel its storyline is weak or the characters just aren't connecting for me I’ll put it down just like when I talk, I told my kids, if it’s a story you’re starting to read it, don't like it put it back.  So yeah, I'm willing to try.  I’m going to try anything. 


Julie Dina:  Would you happen to know if any romance literature that has actually made it to the box office and it’s been a big hit?


Michelle Halber:  Pride and Prejudice.  Is that what you're asking? I mean, Pride and Prejudice is the classic romance.  It's not even necessarily again but it’s more about communication and understanding and the different classes and caste system is that they have.  But I think a lot of it does come from the Jane Austen beginnings.  What do you think Carly?


Carly Beveridge:  As far as movies that I can think of like I said Bridget Jones Diary that was came from chick lit some of the others Waiting to Exhale, there is another considered chick lit.  More recently, you've got the Nicholas Sparks movies in the books that’s another big draw.  Those are considered more contemporary then you got some of your others I'm trying to think of some of your other books that are considered YA.


Michelle Halber:  The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. 


Carly Beveridge:  Well, that one is almost like the young adult chick lit you could consider because they has to do with friendships.  No, there is another one. 


Julie Dina:  Twilight. 


Michelle Halber:  Yeah, Twilight can be considered one, yeah and that one really bridges pretty much several genres.  [Laughs] No, I have another one that I'm trying to think of that actually has to do with like it has to do with like Zombies but it's more of like a YA.  Now when I can kind of think of is Stardust that came out a few years ago based on an older book but I love that one.  Once a great one Robert De Niro’s and that one.  Claire Danes and that one too.  So that’s a great one if you haven't seen that one.  But a lot of many more if they think there is some kind of audience they'll go for it. 


Carly Beveridge:  Yeah, they’ve even started a smaller company called Passionflix that you can subscribe to which is I know nothing about it, this is not an endorsement.  I haven't seen any of their movies.  But just to show you I mean romance is romance writing and romance books is a huge market. 


Michelle Halber:  It is the number one selling genre.


Julie Dina:  Really. 


Carly Beveridge:  And so Passionflix is creating I think their goal is to create books based on and movies based on the books that people are loving that are not necessarily coming out into the theaters that are making it that way.  But yet clearly have a huge audience maybe some of them are Robert stuff will be in there.  I don't exactly even remember what, who is the authors that are being filmed.  But and I don't know how good they’re going to be.  But there is a huge market for romance. 


David Payne:  You think just because people want to escape, is that the biggest reason, does it offer that escape for people?


Carly Beveridge:  Yeah, I think for some its escape.  I think again it's you’re having more authors that have good storylines, good books.  You do have I think the percentage of men who are actually reading romance is still small, but you do have seen a bit of an increase in male writers in the romance genre, which is nice.  But yeah, some of its escape, some of its because there are good quality books out there, good series books out there.


Michelle Halber:  And a lot of people start by the self-publishing and they can get a lot of I shouldn’t say a lot, a number of them can get into the traditional book publishing system because they have enough of the market.  They have created enough of an audience that they have and their books are good.  Obviously there is a lot of stuff that wouldn't necessarily be good either but hopefully people will learn to separate that.  But because it's such a huge industry and publishing it’s even though something I think New York Times is like taking out their books, the romance stuff from the lists that they’re giving it a try.  They’re giving the writing a try.


David Payne:  Well, we normally wrap up our podcasts by asking our guests to talk about the book they’re current reading and enjoying or book they recently read and enjoyed.  So let me turn to Carly first, romance or not romance. 


Carly Beveridge:  Oh, gosh, okay.  So I'm one of those people who read like two and three books at a time because I’m usually listening to one and I'm reading some.  Okay, so one that I’ve got two that I kind of want to recommend.  So I just this past year I read Carve the Mark definitely highly recommend that one.  You’ve got some romance in there, but you've also got some kind of fantasy sci-fi in that as well.  So that’s the great it’s in the young adult and I've seen in the regular kind of adult as well.  We’ve got in both and in Montgomery County.  So that is a definite recommendation.  And the other one I would recommend that I have read not too long ago is Alex & Eliza.  It has to it's a historical romance, young adult, and it is fabulous and we have on order the second book that is coming out.  And it has to do with Eliza Hamilton and his wife when they are teenagers during the American Revolution it’s really good. 


Michelle Halber:  This is going to sound funny after we've been talking about the books that end with a happy ending.  But my best book of 2017 was actually a young adult titled They Both Die at the End, it's a phenomenal.  It talks about its kind of pose at this dystopian world where people are being notified when they're going to die that day.  And so it talks about these two different people and how they decide to live their lives.  There is a day that they think it's going to be the last day like if they walk out of the house move staying in the house keep them safe and protected and will they survive or if they walk out of the house it’s like these choices that you make. 


But the book is actually more about how you live and how you choose to live rather than how you may or may not die.  So that was my best book of 2017.  Right now my husband and I listening to the audio book of Endurance by Scott Kelly and we are fascinated by that.  He is an astronaut who has been in the international space station for over a year and he comes back and he is talking about just the whole process and like what happens to him after and how he goes before it’s fascinating.  And then what else am I reading, again a ton because I have X number of books on cloudLibrary, I’ve X number of books on Overdrive.


Carly Beveridge:  Me too and audible and yeah.


Michelle Halber:  Plus all the children’s books I'm reviewing and meeting for the children’s librarian stuff.  So I’m still I got to finish Alyssa Cole’s.  I think it's an undivided and that’s why I was trying to Google real quickly while Carly was talking.  I think it's an undivided union is book one in her series and so that’s what I’m reading at the moment. 


Julie Dina:  Well, thank you so much Carly and Michelle for joining us today.  I've got to say this was a very fun 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 new 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 for listening to our conversation today.  See you next time.

Feb 13, 2018

Episode Summary: Romance enthusiasts Carly Beveridge and Michelle Halber share their love for the characters, stories, and increasing diversity of romance books, movies, and TV series.  

Recording Date: Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Hosts: Julie Dina and David Payne

Guests: Carly Beveridge, children’s librarian at Silver Spring library, and Michelle Halber, also a children's librarian at Silver Spring library. 

Featured MCPL Resource: Celebrate Black History Month with MCPL's many inspiring and informative events, books, and other resources. 

What Our Guests Are Reading:

Carley Beveridge: Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth and Alex & Eliza by Melissa De La Cruz. 

Michelle Halber: They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera and Endurance by Scott Kelly. 

Authors Mentioned During this Episode: 

Kristen Ashley

Jane Austen - Books and movies 

Beverly Jenkins

Susanna Kearsley

Sherrilyn Kenyon

Lisa Kleypas

Courtney Milan

Julia Quinn

Lynsay Sands

Kerrelyn Sparks 

J.R. Ward

Books, Movies, and TV Shows Mentioned During this Episode:

The Best Man by Kristan Higgins

Bridget Jones Diary - The book by Helen Fielding, was made into a movie. 

Downton Abbey

An Extraordinary Union by Alyssa Cole

The Outlander - First book in a series by Diana Gabaldon. The book series has been made into a TV series

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies - The book, by Steve Hockensmith, was made into a movie.  

Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants - The book is the first of a series. Two movies were made based on the book series. 

Stardust - The book, by Neil Gaiman, was made into a movie.  

Waiting to Exhale - The book, by Terry McMillan, was made into a movie.

Warm Bodies - The novel, by Isaac Marion, was, yep, made into a movie. 

Other Items of Interest

cloudLibrary - Collection of fiction and non-fiction ebooks available for MCPL customers to borrow. 

The Harry Potter Rule - If a series has more than 7 books in it, guest Michelle Halber is not interested.

Fabio - Ubiquitous model for romance novel covers during the 1980s and 1990s. 

Overdrive - Collection of fiction and non-fiction e-books, as well as online audiobooks, available for MCPL customers to borrow. 

Passionflix - Online collection of movies based on popular romance novels. Alas, not an MCPL resource. 

Read the transcript

Jan 31, 2018

Listen to the audio

David Payne:  Welcome to the Library Matters with your host David Payne.  I'm here with two of my colleagues Lauren Martino.


Lauren Martino:  Hello David.


David Payne:  And Julie Dina.


Julie Dina:  Hi, everyone.


David Payne:  Lauren is children's librarian at Silver Spring Library and Julie is the Outreach Librarian and I am the Branch Manager, Davis Library and also the current Interim Manager at the Potomac Library.  So here we are at the beginning of 2018, and want better time to talk about New Year's resolutions or lack of them.  And Julie and Laura are going to join me in talking about resolutions and whether we've made any.  Can we keep them?  Why do you think people make resolutions?


Lauren Martino:  I think we just all have things that we want to improve about ourselves and improve about the world, improve in general and this is the excuse you know.  It's like you need a reason to push yourself.


David Payne:  A fresh start?


Lauren Martino:  Yes.  This is just the yearly excuse that comes by to push yourself to do whatever it is you've been wanting to do.


Julie Dina:  And I think typically everyone waits for the beginning of the year because it's traditional.  New Year’s rolls up and everyone starts talking about what's something new that you are going to be doing?  So I think that's probably why people usually set aside New Year's resolutions.


Lauren Martino:  Maybe there's a little bit of help through just the fact everyone's doing it together.


David Payne:  Right.  Right.  So you are starting off in theory together.


Lauren Martino:  There's a little bit of accountability in there.  Yeah.


David Payne:  Yeah.  The interesting thing, I think, is that statistically, you look at all the statistics that however many people start off with resolutions, very few of them actually stay the course.  I guess it's all about willpower.


Lauren Martino:  I've got an article by Psychology Today that says it's 19% two years later that say they've stuck with it.  However, you are 10 times more likely to make a change if you do make a resolution than if you don't.  So it's like you are not likely to stick with it however, you are much more likely to stick with it than if you never do it.


David Payne:  That's right.


Lauren Martino:  So that's the reason to make it happen.


David Payne:  Do you think that there are other times in one night, I mean, we talk about the New Year typically the start of the New Year's resolution obviously, but we can make resolutions at other times in our lives I think.  Would you agree?


Julie Dina:  I think so.  Well personally I know I've decided to make certain changes and it also depends on what's going on around you, or in your life, or in your family’s life.  So when my mom fell sick, one of the main changes that I wanted to do was to eat better and to spend more time with my family you know, and also I was talking with my colleagues earlier about how my daughter you know, she does a lot of sports and she's constantly talking about the healthier foods to eat and based around that alone I've had to make changes.  So I didn't necessarily wait till New Year's Day to roll around so that would be my reason.


Lauren Martino:  I think I come up with a resolution just about every week or two.  The problem is sticking with it.  I'm always resolving to do something it's just a – yes maybe New Year's is the reason to stick with them a little longer than I otherwise might.


David Payne:  I think for me I make resolutions not to make resolutions.  But there was a very interesting article in the Washington Post magazine a few weeks ago which had a break down.  They did a survey and had a breakdown of what kind of resolutions people make, and the top one was obviously losing weight, health and fitness, exercising more spending less money, eating healthy.  But then they found that typically only about 8% of people actually make it.


Lauren Martino:  It's really hard to change.


David Payne:  It's very hard to change.


Lauren Martino:  I mean we've got these habits and our habits are ingrained in us and our brains are wired to do things automatically and it's an uphill battle trying to change that.


David Payne:  It is.  It is.


Julie Dina:  And not only that in the beginning of anything everyone is always excited.  You know.  Oh yeah we are going to do this.  I'm excited to do that.  But then following through is always the harder part.


David Payne:  Have any of you made any resolutions? Care to share? I haven't.


Julie Dina:  Well I don't know if I'll call it a resolution, but as I mentioned earlier I have said that this year I want to eat healthier and not only that.  I do want to be conscious as to how much money I'm saving.


Lauren Martino:  Saving.  I like the new positive spin on that.


David Payne:  Saving is good.


Julie Dina:  And that's – in fact I'm always saying this every month that, "This month this is what I want to save." I want to start doing, or coming up with measures as to how I can save money in every aspect of my life.


David Payne:  We'll check back in six months if that will flow.


Julie Dina:  Actually six weeks.  How about you Lauren?


Lauren Martino:  Well I have a nice list of you know, probably half a page long things that I'd like to work on.  I think the one I'm settling on is like waking up a little earlier in the morning just to pray a little bit, to spend some time in some silence and without – before I start like – everything starts crowding in and I'm like, "Okay.  I have to do this and I have to do this.  I have to do this.  I have to do this." Just to spend a little bit of time in silence. And so far yeah the main barrier is the 4 year-old.  Like so if you’re getting up early is always like dependent on whether she has crawled into my bed and you know is needs and has decided to wake up at that point.


David Payne:  I'm sure the cold weather doesn't help either.


Lauren Martino:  Oh absolutely.  It's like, "I'm cold." So yeah but you know, a couple of times I've gotten there.  I'm with my coffee and I'm like – I think things have gone better for that.  It's just you know keeping it up and trying to be flexible.  I read a couple of articles just trying to get a grip on this topic.  I think it was the Psychology Today when it was going on about how – no.  No.  No.  It’s about Washington Post.  I don't know if we read the same article, but it talked about how it's like, you are going to fail.  The people who succeed in their New Year's resolutions like 71% of the time they fail on the first month.  So it's like, the difference is, are you going to fail and then see that as part of the process and keep going or are you going to fail and say, oh.  I failed, and give up on it?


Julie Dina:  Did the article actually mention why 71% of the people actually fail at doing this?


Lauren Martino:  I don't know if it mentioned specifically.  One of the articles I read talked about just how difficult it is to change a habit.  Just rewiring your brain and your brain does not want to be rewired, because you've got your groove.  You are surviving on it and your brain wants to keep you surviving, and it doesn't like to change what's not broken.  But it seems like if you are going to succeed you need a strategy of some sort.  So the people that succeeded in eating better were the people that didn't even go to the cookie party.  Like you can't go to the cookie party and – you can't stop gossiping if you are going to hang around the water cooler that sort of thing.  You are not going to stop spending money if you go out with your mother and your hobby of shopping.  You got to make a change to what's going to allow you to do that.  I think also having a very specific goal helps because if you just say, I'm going to eat better and you know, it's like, this white toast with butter on it is not as unhealthy as the doughnut I could be eating.  Whereas if you say, I'm going to eat something with protein and at least one fruit or vegetable every morning for breakfast.  It's a little bit more you know when you've gotten it when you haven't.


Julie Dina:  That sounds more like a plan.


David Payne:  Yeah.  And that's interesting because actually the Washington Post survey I looked at, the top reasons for failure was 58% not enough willpower.


Lauren Martino:  Not enough willpower.


David Payne:  Which, as you said, you got all right coming up with a goal but think it through.  Is it measurable? Is it doable? Because you do have to adjust your life and your brain.  And 44% cited lack of a plan, 32% time management and 28% again, as you mentioned, goals weren't well-defined.  So all very well coming up with a resolution but has to be measurable, has to have a specific outcome, and I think that's obviously where people are failing.  When we look to renew ourselves at the beginning of the year, or whenever with our resolutions, often people turn to self-help books.  Do you like self-help books? Some of them I'm drawn towards.  Most of them I'm not, because I think they are so many on the market now, have to pick and choose.  I think.  So any thoughts about self-help books? What's a good self-help book to you?


Julie Dina:  I don't particularly love self-help books.  I've read some.  The ones that I do like though are the ones that at the end of each chapter it has exercises.  You know they are interactive and it depends on what that chapter is about.  It asks you to do certain exercises, and I like the ones that mention step-by-step ways on accomplishing those goals.  And I sometimes will refer to them just so I know what I'm suggesting for my customers mainly.  But, will I really use them?  Maybe in the future.


Lauren Martino:  Maybe later.


Julie Dina:  Maybe later.


Lauren Martino:  I'm a little bit the opposite.  I think it's one of those occupational hazards of working in a library.  I feel I'm surrounded all the time by books promising me a better life.  It's like I'm waiting for the elevator.  There's an entire cart of non-fiction books there and it's like, I could eat better.  I could eliminate sugar from my diet.  I could be more assertive.  I could –


David Payne:  Be rich.


Lauren Martino:  Yes.  I could be rich.  I could learn how to use the 20% of time that I'm using at work goofing off to better my performance.  It's just the library promises everything and it's finding the willpower to say, "Okay.  I'm going to focus on this one and give it my attention." And usually that breaks down for me right around the time of those exercises, because then I'm like, Oh men.  I have to get up and get a piece of paper and a pencil.  So yeah.  Willpower at least that much.


David Payne:  But I should say that MCPL does have a tremendous array of self-help books in all subjects.


Julie Dina:  They sure do.


David Payne:  The most popular ones were decluttering, finance, relationships.  Yeah.


Julie Dina:  Oh yeah.


Lauren Martino:  And I was just talking to Beth Chandler and she's like, "Oh yeah, I'm ordering more." They are on the horizon as well.


Julie Dina:  Beyond the lookout.


David Payne:  We have something for you.


Lauren Martino:  Just in terms of self-help books.  Some of the ones I like are almost more of the overarching ones like the, you know, "How to Help Yourself." There's one by – I'm going to totally slaughter his name - I think he is just known on Being Mortal Atul Gawande


David Payne:  Oh yes.


Lauren Martino:  Yes.  But he wrote this lovely I mean short little book.  Short little book about the checklist manifesto.  I have to say if there's one self-help book and I'm not even sure it was written as a self-help book, because it's almost more his journey of like how he discovered, oh, yeah.  They started using this with surgeries and it works.  At some point while they were developing like airplanes and they were starting to use them in the military, they discovered that the planes they were building were just way too complex for any human to use.  And they are like, oh well.  These are too complicated for people and sort of giving up on them.  They are like, oh.  We can write down this list of steps.  Everything you need to do before you take off and before you land.  And at some point he came to this conclusion, "We should really be doing this when we cut people open."


Julie Dina:  That would be a good idea.


Lauren Martino:  Checklist: Are all the surgical instruments out?  Check! And it was kind of a breakthrough and I'm like, "Oh yeah.  Getting out the door in the morning.”We had a small baby at home.  It's like, yes.  Pacifier.  Check.  Everything I need for the breast pump.  Check.  Check.  Check.  Check.  Check.  Check.


Julie Dina:  Formula.


Lauren Martino:  Yeah.  Formula.  Check.  Yeah just this way of making a complex world a heck of a lot less complicated.  Has to be my number one that I've actually gotten something out of.


David Payne:  Yeah, I really like for me, Getting Things Done by David Allen it's now a classic, has really transformed my way of trying to keep order with my workload.  It's been a book that's been around for a fair while now.  But I definitely recommend it.  It's a great book for thinking about what the word done actually means and he breaks it down.


Lauren Martino:  That's where I struggle too.  So what does the word done actually mean?


David Payne:  Well, it encourages you to define what it means for you because as we talked about, the problem with setting goals and plans is people don't think, "How are you breaking it down so it's actually achievable?" And he makes you think or realize a plan has to have a beginning, and an end, and the component parts.  And people get stressed because they are over ambitious with their plans, with their management, their time management skills, desires, and that's where it all gets lost.  So he's very, very good at breaking things down and making you think and coming to your own conclusion of what done means for you.  You think about it in a way that makes it sensible for you.  That's why it's a great book.  It really helped me thinking – in my thinking of arranging my clutter and workload.  Definitely recommend it.


Lauren Martino:  Okay, Getting Things Done.


Julie Dina:  Done.  Check.


Lauren Martino:  Done.  Check.  Because I have this lovely – okay.  What I've been focusing on recently and this has been maybe my downfall with the number of goals I have.  But I have this lovely app on my phone called Habitica.  It's essentially a role-playing game/to-do list.  So you get like okay, this is ridiculous and I feel a little embarrassed about it.  But if anybody thinks this is a good idea, please join our party because we need more people.  But yes, it's like every time you do something you can assign how hard you think it is and you know it's like the longer it takes you to do it the more points it's worth, but you get experience points and you get coins and you could buy gear with your coins and then you can go battle monsters.  You do damage to them based on what you do.


But part of this is also you've got habits you want to develop for yourself and of course you know every time I do something wrong it's like, okay.  There's another habit.  But what I get to is like, okay.  Well I checked all these off.  I did exactly what it says here.  Now I need to make another item because it's like, well.  This isn't really resolved. I asked my boss about this and now I need to act on what he just said.  So yeah.  It's like I don't know if we humans are really equipped [inaudible 00:16:33] involving to do, I think 


David Payne:  I think so.  Yeah.


Lauren Martino:  Into the world we have created for ourselves.


Lisa Navidi:  And now, a brief message about MCPL services and resources. Love is in the air.  February is Library Lovers Month.  Think of all the ways you love your library.  It's a place to check out books, attend programs, learn new skills, and so much more.  Join us for the Library Lovers' Month kickoff event.  A family-friendly STEM program at Aspen Hill on February 3rd at 11:00 am.  You can find a link to this and other Library Lovers Month events in these episode show notes. Now back to our program.


David Payne:  Julie you talked about money savings earlier.  I read a very good book on personal finance, money management which is a great read, Broke Millennial by Erin Lowry.  Came out last year.  It's actually a book for the millennial generation which I'm afraid I'm past.  But it's a very easy to read book, straightforward book on money management.


Julie Dina:  What are the highlights, or what are major things in the book that will actually help me?


David Payne:  Well, I think the parent who's looking at university costs, tuition, they talk a lot because it's geared to that age range.


Julie Dina:  I'm glad you brought that up.  My daughter starts –her last year is actually this year.


Lauren Martino:  That's terrifying isn't it?


Julie Dina:  Yeah it really is.


David Payne:  They talk a lot – she talks about student loans and the whole business of applying for them and then paying back.  Which is the parent of a student who's just graduated and its payback time.  Very interesting to me.  But no it’s very, very good book.  Very straightforward.  Written in very clear language.  I'd definitely recommend that for readers of all ages.  And it's on our library shelves.


Julie Dina:  I will take heed.


David Payne:  Take a look at that one.


Julie Dina:  Yes.


Lauren Martino:  Speaking of financial self-help and financial matters, I was going over this with all of my colleagues and Michelle Halber who will also be on our podcast about romance novels mentioned Michelle Singletary, who's got a column in the Post, she's got a number of books too, and I think she just came out with like a 20 day financial fast book that, if we don't have it we have it on order.


David Payne:  And in fact this Broke Millennial was actually recommended by Michelle Singletary last year, so that's how I got hold of it.


Lauren Martino:  She's got so much common sense.


Lauren Martino:  Yes.  You are so right.


David Payne:  But for looking ahead for the person who wants, let's say, to learn something new in 2018, what are some of the great MCPL resources that can help a person do that? I know we got some exciting new resources that we can tell everybody about?


Lauren Martino:  Looking at the outreach person who –


Julie Dina:  Well I know we've recently just got into our system something called


David Payne: is a great resource for learning new things.


Lauren Martino:  There's a lot of different computer skills on there.


David Payne:  A lot of computer skills.


Lauren Martino:  Very technical things that I don't think we have anywhere else.


David Payne:  Right.


Lauren Martino:  And a lot of people have been asking for it.


Julie Dina:  Yes.


David Payne:  The good thing about it they cover these things at various levels.  So it can be for the beginner who wants to learn about word processing, or the basics of computing to a higher level of, let's say, Excel or PowerPoint.  And they have a whole selection of videos to go with each course, so that's a very powerful database that can be accessed from our website.


Julie Dina:  Also Gill courses.  They are bigger and bigger each year and every event that I go to, actually the fliers usually run out.  It seems like people already know about them.  In the beginning I would have to talk and tell people about them but now they ask me, "Why are the classes filling up quickly?" So Gill courses, I mean we have over 300 courses.  So you can imagine.  Ranging from Nurse's Assistant courses, we have accounting.  We have cooking, photography, anything you can think of.


Lauren Martino:  American Sign Language.


Julie Dina:  Yes.


David Payne:  Yes.


Lauren Martino:  Books.  Things for teachers.


Julie Dina:  And people love the fact that it's actually free.  I mean you are not going to get this anywhere else and sometimes you have to pay a lot of money to get certification for some of these courses, so once they know it's free and now that a lot of people know it's free, the classes fill up quickly.  I like them.


Lauren Martino:  And they are demanding.  Like they are not just like you watch a video and that's it.


David Payne:  No.  No.  You have to keep up.


Lauren Martino:  You've got exercises and it has a time frame.  I think that kind of helps you like feel a little better –


Julie Dina:  Exactly.


Lauren Martino:  You got a deadline.  You got to do this.


David Payne:  Yeah.  We've also got another fairly new resource, Learning Express, which has – I don't know whether all of you’ve used it already, sample tests for students, but also courses on basic computing as well, I think.


Lauren Martino:  There's things in there for people with IP courses and also basic things like if you want to become a better writer at work.  Like better just adults, workplace English skills.  Things like that.


David Payne:  Yeah.  And I think the great thing about Learning Express is that it addresses younger students, teenagers, perhaps students with the SAT, ACT, and then adults in the workforce as well.  Looking for vocational tests and then general skills like computing.  So great resource.


Lauren Martino:  I've been playing around a lot with ArtistWorks.


Julie Dina:  Oh my gosh.  That's my favorite.  Everyone – that's all I talk about.  That's how I start any conversation at any event that I go to.  It's the best.


Lauren Martino:  So tell us about ArtistWorks.


Julie Dina:  I'll tell you.


Lauren Martino:  Give us the low down.


Julie Dina:  I'll give you the low down.  So imagine you've been trying to learn a particular instrument for a while.  And we all know how much costly it could be.  ArtistWorks all you need to do is create an account with us with your library card, and there is an array of instruments that are actually offered.


Lauren Martino:  And it's a big array.


Julie Dina:  Any instrument that you can actually think of.  Actually I think the ukulele is even one of them.


Lauren Martino:  They didn’t because I was looking for that.  And they didn't have it at first.  And then it was recommended and it came and then we were all like, "We have a big ukulele culture here.” I don’t know if you are aware of that.


Julie Dina:  Exactly.


Lauren Martino:  And all of us were like, "When are you getting to ukulele?"  And they are like, "It's in production.  We are getting it." And then, “It's available now."


Julie Dina:  Yes and we do have it.  So when I go to a lot of the back to school nights, I talk about it so that parents know and sometimes parents actually are excited that they can actually sign up too.  And best of all MCPL always brings the best for their customers.  Guess what? The instructors are actually Grammy and Emmy Award winners.  So imagine you are getting the best to teach you the best.  And what they do in the beginning is you take a test in the beginning, so that they know if you are a beginner, intermediate, or advanced.  In that way they can set aside how your courses would actually be.  But I think it's the best thing.  They offer graphic drawing in there, voice lessons, piano.  I've always wanted to be a rock star so.


David Payne:  There's a chart.  There's a chart there.


Julie Dina:  I mean I could be a rock star for free.


Lauren Martino:  Provided you’ve got the commitment.


Julie Dina:  Exactly.


Lauren Martino:  I learned a nice little ukulele act.


Julie Dina:  Oh have you?


Lauren Martino:  Yes.  Yeah.  I was amazed because it was like something that I don't think you come across in just like a standard book.  But yeah was this really like innovative way of trying to get your fingers to move like, apart from each other.  It's like, "Take your index and your ring finger and try to touch them at the same time to your thumb.  And then take your middle finger and your pinkie.”


Julie Dina:  I tried.


Lauren Martino:  It's hard.


David Payne:  It sounds hard.


Lauren Martino:  It's hard and they are like, "Yeah, yeah.  This is hard but do it every day."


David Payne:  You'll get sore fingers.


Lauren Martino:  You'll get sore fingers.  Yeah.  I mean you are doing this on the strings and yeah it was just really helpful and I got a banjo for Christmas too so I am like, "We are breaking up that banjo.  ArtistWorks.  And we are going to give it a shot too."


David Payne:  That's great.  So all those are available on our MCPL website.


Lauren Martino:  Those are all available on our website with your library card.


David Payne:  With your library card.  So we traditionally end our podcasts with question to be asked our guests about what they are reading right now or a book that they recently enjoyed.  Julie, any thoughts.


Julie Dina:  Well, since I've been talking about money all day, it's to no surprise the book that I'm actually reading right now it’s entitled, Millionaire Success Habits by Dean Graziosi.  I'm only in the beginning part of it, but so far I'm loving it and it's saying, "Why would you continue to do the same thing if it's bringing you results that you don't want?" So you've got to venture out of what you are used to doing and start taking risks.  And he's saying this.  He's obviously a millionaire and he hangs around millionaires, and he gives us secrets as to what millionaires actually talk about and actually do to produce results.


Lauren Martino:  So you are the fly on the wall in the millionaires like clubhouse?


Julie Dina:  Yeah.  I mean, I could say I'm a millionaire.  I'm reading their book.


David Payne:  Pass all the secrets to us.


Julie Dina:  I'll see what I can do.  How about you Lauren?


Lauren Martino:  Well I think somebody else said just like in a previous episode said this was an awesome book so I gave it a try.  It’s Clayton Byrd, children’s librarian here full disclosure.  Clayton Byrd Goes Underground by Rita Garcia Williams.  I loved her – oh gosh.  She wrote One Crazy Summer, and Gone Crazy in Alabama, and just a series about these lovely little girls whose mommy was a Black Panther and they went to visit her in California.  Just her way of writing about relationships.  Like sisters and brothers and mothers and fathers, and just the way of kind of portraying just how rich and loving they are in all of the flaws.  Clayton, he's got his grandfather and his grandfather –he loves his grandfather and his grandfather loves him, and they are the closest in the world.  And at the same time we've got Clayton's mommy who the grandfather was a blues musician.  Left her behind all the time.


And so it's Clayton – it happens at the very beginning of the book, so I'm not spoiling too much.  But spoiler alert.  Grandfather dies.  And so we've got the little boy who's mourning his grandfather and his mother.  She’s dealing with it in her own way.  But she's basically trying to get him out of the house.  Getting him out of their life and the boy is like, "No.  No.  You’re getting rid of his guitars.  Why? This is his guitars.  Famous blues musician.  Just getting rid of his guitars." So just how he's coping with that.  He's a kid so and this is an adventure story so he runs away.  Shenanigans ensue.  But I just love how she writes about families and in this very believable nuanced way.  And that's my adult take on this kids' book.


David Payne:  Sounds great.  And for me normally I don't read fiction.  I'm generally a non-fiction reader but when John le Carre came out with his latest book, Legacy of Spies, I couldn't put it down.  Johhn Le Carre I think, my fellow country man is a master storyteller and his latest book is a great read.  We are not going to be spoilers, but it draws on two of his previous works, one of his very first ones, The Spy Who Came In From The Cold which I think came out in the early 60s and then Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and he draws on those two books and moves between the past and the present at quite a rate.  And always a great read.  That book is available, as I think the ones you mentioned, at MCPL.  So thank you both very much indeed for sharing your resolutions and your hopes and –


Julie Dina:  It's been great.


Lauren Martino:  And next time I resolve to do something with finances, or something with productivity, I know where to go.


David Payne:  And Julie, we'll check back and see if you made it.


Lauren Martino:  No.  We should do this again next year.


Julie Dina:  Yes.


Lauren Martino:  See where we are all at.


Julie Dina:  That's true.  That'll be fun.


Lauren Martino:  One year from now.  Here we go.


Julie Dina:  We would like to say a special thank you to our listeners.  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, Stature, or wherever you get your podcasts.  Also please review and rate us on Apple podcast.  We'll love to know what you think.  Thank you for listening to our conversation today and see you next time.


Jan 30, 2018

Episode Summary: Hosts Julie Dina, Lauren Martino, and David Payne talk about New Years resolutions. Are they helpful? What are some strategies for keeping them? How can MCPL help you make a change?

Recording Date: Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Hosts: Julie Dina, Lauren Martino, and David Payne

Featured MCPL Resource: February is Library Lovers Month. The Library Lovers Month Kickoff event will take place at Aspen Hill Library, February 3, 2018 at 11 AM. It will feature an interactive STEM show and a hands-on booth “Bubbling Potions and Explosions” by the Science Guys of Baltimore. Here are some other fun events to help you express your love for libraries

What Our Hosts Are Reading:

Julie Dina: Millionaire Success Habits by Dean Graziosi

Lauren Martino: Clayton Byrd Goes Underground by Rita Williams-Garcia, whose other well known books include Gone Crazy in Alabama and One Crazy Summer

David Payne: A Legacy of Spies by John le Carré, who also wrote The Spy Who Came in from the Cold and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Books and other MCPL Resources Mentioned During this Episode:

Artist Works: Unlimited access to beginning through advanced, self-paced video lessons for instruments, voice and physical art. NOTE: Our subscription to Artist Works does not currently include quizzes. 

Broke Millenial: Stop Scraping by and Get Your Financial Life Together by Erin Lowry

Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande, who also wrote Being Mortal

Gale Courses: High-quality, free courses and career training programs offered entirely online. 

Getting Things Done by David Allen

Learning Express: Offers online tutorials, practice tests, and e-books to improve job search and workplace skills; reading, writing, math, and basic science comprehension; and career certification, licensure and education testing skills. Learn new skills online! offers over 6,000 courses in business, technology, and creative endeavors taught by industry experts. 

The 21 Day Financial Fast: Your Path to Financial Peace and Freedom by Michelle Singletary

Other Items of Interest:

Habitica: App mentioned by host Lauren Martino that turns adopting good habits and avoiding bad ones into a game. 

Read the transcript

Jan 17, 2018

Listen to the audio

Lauren Martino:  Hello, welcome to Library Matters.  I'm Lauren Martino, your host.


David Payne:  And I'm David Payne.


Lauren Martino:  And today we are here with Dana Alsup, and Amy Alapati who are going to talk to us about MoComCon.  MoComCon is coming up guys, it's coming up very quickly.


Dana Alsup:  Yes it is.


Lauren Martino:  We are very excited to hear more about this event in January.  So can you tell us a little bit about what is MoComCon; what is the silly name all about?


Dana Alsup:  Well, MoComCon is the Montgomery County Public Libraries Comic Con, so Comic Con let's bring it back even further past MoComCon Comic Con.


Lauren Martino:  It's for us square people.


Dana Alsup:  I see, it means Comic Convention, and it's an event celebrating comics and comic culture.  There’s Comic Con celebrated all over the country, all over the world.  The biggest one in the United States is in San Diego and that is when people usually say Comic Con that's what they were referring to.  And that's where big names go to and they talk about new movies, they talk about new Star Wars, they talk about new Marvel, and stuff like that.  So ours is not San Diego.


David Payne:  Not quite.


Lauren Martino:  Stan Lee won’t be there?


Dana Alsup:  Stan Lee will not be there, he’ll just be the janitor in the corner making a subtle appearance.


Lauren Martino:  Exactly.


Dana Alsup:  But we will have local authors and we will have artists, we will have cosplay contests, there will be cosplayers there.  Cosplay is costumes that people dress up as characters, there will be workshops and panels and drop-in events and merriment in abundance there.


Lauren Martino:  For people of all ages too.


Dana Alsup:  For people of all ages.


Amy Alapati:  Not just for grownups and it's not just for comic book geeks.


David Payne:  It's for everybody.


Amy Alapati:  Everybody, Everyone would be interested, preschoolers, there's story time at the beginning.


Lauren Martino:  Technically a little bit before.


Amy Alapati:  A little bit before the start time, there's things for elementary age kids, teens, young adults, adults, senior citizens so no matter what your interest, if it's comic books, if it’s graphic novels, mange, anime, superheroes, fantastical realms, dragons, magic, time travel, zombies or any other pop culture fandom you are sure to find something of interest in our Comic Con.


Lauren Martino:  If you want to geek out?


Amy Alapati:  Yes.


Lauren Martino:  So this is the place to geek out?


David Payne:  So now that we define MoComCon and a Com con, tell us when, where, how do we get to it, where do we find it?


Amy Alapati:  So this year MoComCon is the same place that it was last year at the Silver Spring library, the address is 900 Wayne Avenue Silver Spring Maryland 20910, and it's happening on Saturday January 27th 2018.  The day is going to start with that super hero story time we talked about that's for preschoolers and that's at 10:30 but the workshops and panels begin at 12:00 noon.  So we're hoping that people will arrive in the morning sometime between 11:00 and 12:00 to get registered, to get their bearings, to look around make their plans.  There is convenient free parking located in the Wayne Avenue parking garage directly across the street from the library, the address for the parking garage is 921 Wayne Avenue.  So set your GPS for that, but the library also has easy access by public transport, you can get there via the on bus, the Metro bus or the Metro Red Line, and there are directions to Comic Con on our website


Lauren Martino:  We'll put all of this in our show notes as well, so in case you didn't have your pen to write everything down.


David Payne:   There you have it.


Lauren Martino:  There you have it.  So if I'm not into comics or graphic novels, if I just I haven't read either of those should I still go to MoComCon?  Is there something for me there?


Dana Alsup:  Yes, do you like crafts?


Lauren Martino:  I do like crafts.


Dana Alsup:  Then you should go, because there's going to be a DIY dragon egg.


Lauren Martino:  My favorite.


Dana Alsup:  You can make your own dragon egg, so if you want to make a dragon egg ala Harry Potter or Game of Thrones.  And then.


Lauren Martino:  Your choice.


Dana Alsup:  And then you could take your dragon egg and go sit in our very own homemade Iron Throne.


Lauren Martino:  And put the crown on your head, 3D printed.


Dana Alsup:  You could do it all.  So if you like crafts, there's going to be button making, there’s going to be crafts for kids and they can be superheroes, or you, do you like to dress up?


Lauren Martino:  Who doesn’t like to dress up?


Dana Alsup:  Costumes or not just for Halloween, you can reuse them at Comic Con and if you're into learning about new technologies, we have a Google expeditions that will have there and you can immerse yourself into various TV production sites like say The TARDIS, you can get yourself into a TARDIS via Google expeditious.


Lauren Martino:  Seriously that's what we're doing at Google ex- how to.


David Payne:  That’s actually great because as a Doctor Who nut I do have to ask you what is there for the Doctor Who fan?


Dana Alsup:  Okay, well for.


Lauren Martino:  Amy is sighing, last year she had the complete outfit with the hat.


Amy Alapati:  Yeah last year was the TARDIS last year was the TARDIS.


Lauren Martino:  It was the most incredible TARDIS wasn’t it?


David Payne:  Yeah how do you follow that?


Amy Alapati:  I followed it by going to Awesome Con and having David Tennant sign my TARDIS hat.


Lauren Martino:  Oh my goodness.


Amy Alapati:  Sadly David Tennant is not coming to MoComCon.


Dana Alsup:  But you know what David, if you're listening, you are welcome to join us we would be thrilled absolutely.


David Payne:  And there is always next year.


Dana Alsup:  Always next year.  So there's lots of stuff to be doing, and comics play a large part in Comic Cons, but it's all kinds of fandom, it's not just things that have started as comic books, imagine Harry Potter, Game of Thrones those are not comic books, but it’s all kinds of fandom's, Disney, we are going to have stuff about Disney there as well all kinds of stuff.


Amy Alapati:  We have a really exciting Harry Potter link this year, do you want to talk about it Dana?


Dana Alsup:  We have a Harry Potter escape room this year, so you can solve Harry Potter style riddles to get out of the escape room.  And I – That's what I think I maybe most exited for, and it makes me a little bit sad that I'm not attending as just as someone coming into the building and attending the whole event, I will be working the whole time.


Amy Alapati:  One of these years.


Dana Alsup:  One of these years.


Lauren Martino:  You just have to not be part of the Comic Con but yeah I want to see how many people show up in costume during the Harry Potter escape room because that would be amazing.


 Dana Alsup:  I am a huge Harry Potter person so I'm very jazzed about that.


Amy Alapati:  We had a lot of great costumes last year and I'm hoping that we will again this year, we have that cosplay contest and we give a nice prize.


Dana Alsup:  Yes we do.


Amy Alapati:  And in three different categories, the kids category, the teen category, and the adult category.  So lots of adults came in costume last year, there were some pretty serious costume.


Dana Alsup:  There were.


Amy Alapati:  Several doctors, 10 and 11 were both there.


Dana Alsup:  And the kid who won the kid's costly contest that Amy and I judged, it was incredible he was a Pokémon card, It was such and he [crosstalk].


Amy Alapati:  He had lights.


Lauren Martino:  He had lights.


Dana Alsup:  It was such an amazing – it was so amazing I couldn't believe that he had made this at home, we were so impressed by the talent and the skill put into this costume.


Amy Alapati:  He was little like what do you think like seven eight years old?


Dana Alsup:  Yeah.


Amy Alapati:  And he was there all day long and it was like a card, it was almost like a box around him and he wore it all day long.


Dana Alsup:  It was very impressive. He was excellent.


David Payne:  Maybe he will come with something else this year.


Amy Alapati:  Hope so, I hope so.


Dana Alsup:  Oh gosh yeah, one up himself.


David Payne:  So as you mentioned this is the second year of MoComCon.  How did the idea of, how did the idea come about of doing MoComCon and why Silver Spring Library?


Dana Alsup:  So the origin story of MoComCon is that one of our assistant directors attended a conference where she learned about Dover Public Libraries Comic Convention and in Delaware, and she gave this idea– she loved this idea and she gave it over to a teen committee who is made up of librarians and other staff members who come up with programming and stuff for teens throughout the county.  So they worked pretty hard coming up with an outline of what a Comic Con at the library would look like and last year we made it happen.


Lauren Martino:  First time ever.


Dana Alsup:  First time ever and it was intense trying to figure out what exactly we should do, what people would want to attend, and we – I think we did a good job.


Amy Alapati:  We had 10,000 more ideas than we could actually do and even the week before we’re like, “What if we add–” “No, we can’t no.”


Dana Alsup:  No, and they're even ideas for this year where we had to table them and it's like maybe next year, maybe next year, there's so many possibilities but there's only so much time and space unless we are in the TARDIS.  So that was how it kind of came to be, and MCPL wanted to have an event not just for teens although the main focus of it was providing programming for teens, but just like a great community event, a large event.  And last year we picked the date which was January 21st 2017, we picked it in the spring and later it became the day of the Women's March which was little bit of a blow at first, but our community really turned out for the event and it was an incredible day.  It was bananas I think for staff, I don't think I stopped talking saying the same things about where everything was as for four hours straight, but I walked out of there with a big dumb smile on my face seeing that everyone was happy.


Amy Alapati:  So many customers thanked us for having such a fun and positive event at a time that was in a little bit of upheaval for our country, and even people who went to the Women's March instead of coming to Comic Con, when they got off the Metro, off the Red Line they stopped in MoComCon on their way home from the Women's March some of them so that was fun too.


Dana Alsup:  It was great.


Amy Alapati:  To be able to help serve everybody.


Dana Alsup:  Yeah and then why is Silver Spring as Amy mentioned before it has enough, it has a lot of parking and that garage across the street and it's free on the weekends, and it's close to the Metro station and many bus routes.  So it's very accessible for a lot of people in the county and also coming over from the district as well.


Amy Alapati:  And it's a big building, it's a three story building so there's a lot of space, there's a lot of rooms where we can have different events, we can have fandom rooms, we can have workshops, we can have tabletop activities, so it's a good marriage between the two of accessibility and the space.


Lauren Martino:  Not to mention plenty of plugs.


David Payne:  And I’m guessing people come from quit a distance to–


Dana Alsup:  We do one of the people on our panels Melody on our author panel is coming from New York just to attend our conference and to be a part of our panel on our presentations which is pretty great.


David Payne:  That’s great.


Dana Alsup:  And we know that people came from various parts of the state even to come to this.  Comic Cons tend to get followings and people seek out these events, so I'm glad that people were getting involved and seeing like they're coming from Baltimore, they're coming from Anne Arundel County to come to our MoComCon.


Amy Alapati:  Our first ever MoComCon, we didn't know how many people would come, we didn’t know if there would be ten people or a thousand people, and we had a good number.


Dana Alsup:  We did.


David Payne:  Are there sort of Comic Con listservs you post this information on this kind of thing or?

Dana Alsup:  I don’t know about listservs but I may have to look into that.  But there are – posting things in local like comic shops and in places like that where we might catch the attention of people who are interested in cons.  And not just within the county but in other places, not everyone lives in this county staff-wise, so we tend to take it home with us and sharing our communities outside of Montgomery County as well to pull people into it.


Lauren Martino:  So what's different this year?  What are you excited about this year that we didn't have last year?


Amy Alapati:  Well, for me I'm excited about that Harry Potter escape room that we talked about.  But I'm really excited about one of our guest speakers this year Marc Tyler Nobleman.


Lauren Martino:  Yes, please do tell us.


Amy Alapati:  He is such an entertaining speaker, he is going to talk primarily about two of his nonfiction books.  He wrote about the creators of some of our most iconic superheroes.  His first book was Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman, it got multiple stared reviews and it made the front page of USA Today.  And then his second book it went even further it's called Bill The Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman, and this book is about just what it says the co-creator Batman that nobody really knew about until Marc Tyler Nobleman started researching the origins of Batman, and he discovered that this guy really was the co-creator but never had any credit for it.  And so he wrote a book about it, and it drew so much attention it inspired a Hulu documentary called Batman and Bill.  It has inspired a TED talk, it's been covered by NPR's All Things Considered, the Today Show, The New York Times, Forbes Magazine; it made the best of the year lists at USA Today and The Washington Post and on MTV.


So Marc’s research for this book turned the history of comic books upside down, and if you want to learn more you're going to have to come to his presentation which for adults teens and children ages eight and older and he'll do a whole PowerPoint and talk about his journey and his journey with Bill Fingers family members, who also did not know about his history.  It’s pretty inspiring.


Dana Alsup:  It’s amazing, I'm very excited about him coming, I think it's such an incredible journey that he's been on and then will take us on.  We’ll become a part of it, but we have a couple different presentations we have Marc Tyler Nobleman coming in the escape room, we have some new table crafts and the dragon eggs which is a staff led program, then the Google expeditions as I mentioned we can go inside the TARDIS.  We have fandom rooms at Comic Con and for those that didn't attend last year we are in the smaller meeting rooms within Silver Spring and there are rooms that are dedicated to one fandom.  So last year like there's one room and it's all Star Wars and you can just immerse yourself in Star Wars and there's props, and you can take photos, there's posters, there's backdrops all kinds of fun stuff in there.


Amy Alapati:  We had Doctor Who last year.


Dana Alsup:  Last year we had Doctor Who so we're bringing some back we will have Star Wars again but we're having some newer ones and we're going to have anime and manga specific one, we're going to have Disney and we're going to have a Game of Thrones one, which is where you will find said homemade iron throne.


Lauren Martino:  That Dana-


Dana Alsup:  Yeah is in my living room.  And I'm very fearful pocking an eye out on.


David Payne:  It sounds intriguing.


Dana Alsup:  It’s intense.  My dog is not a fan and one of our other work group members Tom is 3D printing a crown to wear, so you can just have your dragon egg, wear the crown, do the whole thing and.


David Payne:  Get the whole experience.


Dana Alsup:  The whole thing immerses you.


Amy Alapati:  Immersion.


Lauren Martino:  Do you have any tips for anybody trying to make a throne at home?


Dana Alsup:  A throne at home, hot glue super glue did not hold it the way I wanted it to, it's just got to be a hot glue gun, and you got to get your Adirondack chair before they sell out.  Lauren reminded me of that shortly before I bought my chair.  “I think Dana, they're going to sell out.”  “You’re right, they will.”  So we have also another local person coming and a fellow podcaster Matthew Winner is coming and his podcast and his website is All the Wonders and it's about children's books, so he'll be doing a presentation about children's graphic novels which I find to be some of the best graphic novels.


Amy Alapati:  I agree with that.


Dana Alsup:  Children's graphic novels [crosstalk] we were reading one like reading one today, they're fantastic.  So he is going to talk about those.  And he is also a media specialist – an elementary school media specialist, so he is – that is his thing, is children's books and children's graphic novels, so he's coming as well.  And I think those are some different things that we have going on this year.


Amy Alapati:  And then some old favorites coming back the button machine.


Dana Alsup:  Yes the buttons machine we have two this year.


Amy Alapati:  Yes, the line won’t not going to be as long if you were there last year.


Dana Alsup:  You can button away.


Amy Alapati:  You can make your own button badges and we have all different kinds of artwork for you to manipulate into a button or a badge.


Dana Alsup:  And we have Don Sakers who is back doing his writing and publishing sci fi and fantasy workshops which are very popular last year so he's coming back to do those again as well.  And Future Makers is going to be doing workshops – different last year we had a Dalek drawbots.  Another nod to Dr. Who.


Dana Alsup:  We had Doctor Who cover.


Amy Alapati:  We did; we had Doctor Who covered last year, sorry David.


David Payne:  Well, next year.  [crosstalk] [0:17:21].


Amy Alapati:  That will be existing, and this year they're going to do drawing with light wands.  So that’s a fun thing.


Amy Alapati:  That is going to be fun.


David Payne:  Yeah obviously putting on an event of this scale seems to require a lot of planning and preparation, is that the kind of thing where the minute you stop the 2018 event you'll be looking ahead to 2019 how do you go planning that?


Dana Alsup:  Oh yeah.


Amy Alapati:  Absolutely.


Lauren Martino:  Tell us your secrets.


Dana Alsup:  We started planning 2018 the moment 2017 – during 2017.


Amy Alapati:  During 2017 next year we are not doing this again.


Dana Alsup:  We all started, going into your first one you don't know exactly what you're coming into and you of some things you just have to make up because you're not sure how it's going to go.  And so during 2017 we over all I think left with like tiny pieces of scrap paper in our pocket with ideas and comments, this did not work, this is absolutely worked.  A customer said we should do this, let's try this next year.  And in two weeks after the event we came together again as a team and we did a massive debrief for two hours of just nonstop, what worked?  What didn't work?  What do we do better?  How do we change this?  What about next year?.  And then shortly thereafter I was tasked with heading up the team for 2018 so every all planning started pretty much immediately.  But we've been working solidly on this one for about seven months.


Amy Alapati:  Yeah and of cause it's – I'm going to say this because I'm not in charge of it, it’s so much easier this year than last year because we're not starting from scratch, because we have

 some expectations realistic expectations of what works, what didn't work, how it's going to run.  So I feel like this year we had a better handle on – from the start gate, how it was going to go.


Dana Alsup:  Yes, I agree even as the person writing it, I totally agree.  The wonderful Lennea did this last year, and she created an amazing framework that I have and structure that I have really built this on without altering too many things but-


Lauren Martino:  Can you tell us a little bit about that for anybody that's out there wanting to do this in their library?


Dana Alsup:  I mean it's every – you start with nothing, you start with I want to have a Comic Con.  And what the heck does that mean?  You start with nothing and I – Thank goodness, I have Amy and the other teams, you send them emails, “Does this make sense?  Will this work?  Is this a real thing?  Am I making these words up?”  So I have a great team to bounce all these wacky ideas off of-


Amy Alapati:  And she’s open to hearing.  “No, Dana that's crazy, that’s not going to work.”


Dana Alsup:  Yes, “Dana these are not real words, none of this makes sense.”  But Lennea, and us as a team last year we started with nothing except, “I think we want to have a cosplay contest.”  “I think we want to have local authors.”  “I think we want to have a panel about diversity and comics,” and then you just build everything.  You find people in the community who are experts in the field of diversity in comics, you find local authors, these fandom rooms were-


Amy Alapati:  From people's closets.


Dana Alsup:  Closets, you know, honestly.  I think I have–


Lauren Martino:  So you picked people there were big geeks that had a bunch of stuff.


Dana Alsup:  Exactly.  You say, “Well actually I have this and I'm willing to loan it for the day.”


Amy Alapati:  I had 17 cauldrons in my closet and some brooms.


Dana Alsup:  Great, terrific, let’s put it in a room.  And we used – you know the Future Makers have done various things throughout Montgomery County for years now and so we called on them, and they were willing to adapt something to be a Dalek rather than what they had originally called it to – So it’s starts from just ideas and what you think of what this could be and you think of what other cons are and how can you make it happen here, but it's a lot of work-


David Payne:  And he managed to get you other work done at the same time.


Dana Alsup:  Somehow.  Although I feel like with it coming up so quickly but my life is just dominated by it.  I can't escape it.  I have boxes of Comic Con stuff in my house, I have that chair in my living room.  I cannot escape Comic Con right now, but it's well worth it I have to say.  To see how happy our community was at the end of last year’s was just – I think it's what pushed the majority of all of us, of the team from last year to come back and do it again, was how much fun it really was.


Amy Alapati:  Yeah.  And it's really – it's a way for people to come together and over things that they have in common.  Even if you're a Harry Potter fan and somebody else is a Star Wars fan, but you're coming together in this open and welcoming environment where it's okay, to be all of those things.


David Payne:  For all of our ages.


Amy Alapati:  For all ages.


Dana Alsup:  For all ages.


Amy Alapati:  It crosses generations, it crosses socioeconomic backgrounds, it just – it connects everybody together.




Lauren Martino:  So Dana I’m a librarian what’s your super power?


Dana Alsup:  My super power if I had one would probably be flight that I don't have to commute anymore.  Then I could just fly right on over.  Although it's really cold today, so maybe I wouldn’t-


Lauren Martino:  The wind chill.


Dana Alsup:  Want to be up that high, but may so maybe I have some super thermal stuff going on to – I did watch Wonder Woman over the weekend and that truth lasso was pretty spectacular.


Amy Alapati:  Oh yeah.


Dana Alsup:  That could be handy.


Lauren Martino:  That was a great trait, yeah.


Dana Alsup:  Yeah.  That was – There are so many fun superpowers.


Amy Alapati:  Mine is going to cover everything, she's not really a superhero, but when I was growing up she was my superhero, I want to be Jeannie, from I Dream of Jeannie.


Lauren Martino:  There you go-


Amy Alapati:  Blinking power because then I could have everything, I could blink myself able to fly or if it's too cold I could just blink myself directly to work, or I'd blink [crosstalk] [0:23:47].


Dana Alsup:  Blink yourself to Hawaii.


Amy Alapati:  A TARDIS costume or whatever I would you know.


Lauren Martino:  I like how all of your superpowers revolve around commuting.


Amy Alapati:  I only have 10 minute commute, my commute’s good so.


Dana Alsup:  I could fly right to my relatives across the country, it will be great, flight I'm really liking flight, also hopefully I wouldn't get airsick, right?


David Payne:  Yeah.


Amy Alapati:  My sister would like to apparate, that's the power that she wants.


Lauren Martino:  That would be good.


Amy Alapati:  Yeah.  It that would be pretty cool. 


Lauren Martino: I’ve always thought I’d like to be able to like shape shift.  [crosstalk] [0:24:19]


David Payne:  That could be useful yeah.


Lauren Martino:  Yeah I’ll shift myself into being an eagle or something and I’ll fly right along with Dana or yeah.


Dana Alsup:  Yeah.  That sounds like fun.


Lauren Martino:  absolutely.


David Payne:  For the beginner who is looking to get into the com world what are some comic books that you would recommend?


Amy Alapati:  So like with any recommendation it depends on the reader's interests and age group.  If you want to explore your particular interests as a listener let a library staff person know the type of book that you like and we’ll help you find a graphic novel for you in that same genre.  So you tell us a novel that you liked we’ll find you a graphic novel in the same vein.  But to be more specific to give you some examples, if you're an adult who enjoys nonfiction, a classic like Maus by Art Spiegelman is about the Holocaust or Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi which is about growing up in Iran would be good choices for you.  But if you're a kid who likes funny stories about friendship, you could try anything by Raina Telgemeier if you can find it on the shelf, they're incredibly popular.


Lauren Martino:  Good luck.


Amy Alapati:  So Smiles, Sisters, Drama that’s not just popular with girls though those books are also popular with boys even though the main characters are mainly girls.  Also popular with new readers is Dav Pilkey’s hilarious Dog Man about a crime fighting superhero dog.  Teens have been asking for the March trilogy recently by Andrew Iden and Nate Powell and the civil rights leader John Lewis.  It's a series that tells the story of Lewis’ life in the broader context of the civil rights movement, so it's autobiographical.  So those are just a few examples for me what about you Dana do you have anything else or you have the same list-


Dana Alsup:  All the same.


Amy Alapati:  We have all the same things, we have the same brain.


Dana Alsup:  Amy and I have very similar tasted in these beginning of books.  I also have Persepolis and Maus and anything by Raina Telgemeier because she's glorious and her books are fantastic.  I also love Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales.


Lauren Martino:  Oh my goodness.


Dana Alsup:  Those are children’s graphic novel and-


Lauren Martino:  What’s the Donner party one called?


Dana Alsup:  The Donner Dinner Party.  Which is the first one I read and I loved it, the World War One, one – is The World War One Book One, one, is fantastic, it's intense, I read it on vacation – it's not really a vacation read.


David Payne:  That doesn’t seem like it, no.


Dana Alsup:  But I read it on vacation.  And it was great the Underground Abductor is about Harriet Tubman and I loved that one as well.  They are – Just they're great that, you don't have to be a kid, they're fantastic, they're funny, they're accurate-


Amy Alapati:  And you learned dates.


Dana Alsup:  Just great, they’re so much fun.


Amy Alapati:  Yeah, you learn about history.


Dana Alsup:  I also love Gene Yang with Boxers and Saints.


Lauren Martino:  Yes, yes.


Dana Alsup:  His dual graphic novels set there and American born Chinese is a great way to get into graphic novels as well.  I'm much more of a nonfiction graphic novel reader than I am a fiction graphic novel reader, personally.


Lauren Martino:  I saw Gene Yang at the National Book Festival and he was the nicest guy in the world, I was waiting in line, waiting in line and waiting in line and then like I was two people from him and my four year old daughter comes up crying, “Mommy I need you now.”  He was so nice about it, he was so, so nice about it, he’s like, “I will make this quick,” but he talked to me and told me stories and stuff like, and it was like I swear 20 seconds.  It was this 20 second encounter with Gene Yang over my crying daughter, I was like, “You are the best person ever.”  Sorry I just had to share that.


Amy Alapati:  It's exciting when you meet somebody and they turn out to be just as nice as you wanted them to be.


Lauren Martino:  And if Gene Yang wants to come to Comic Con, please Gene Yang we would like to have you.


Amy Alapati:  Or Shaun Tan.  I love Shaun Tan books and I have a friend in Australia and she came to this and she said, “Oh, I have something for you.”  And out of her purse she put a little scrap of paper and it said, just a scrap of paper not a book not – It said to Amy from Shaun Tan.  She had seen him at a conference and didn't have anything for him to sign but she said could you sign this for my friend in America, and so he did.


Lauren Martino:  Wow.


Amy Alapati:  So yeah, it’s exciting to have to connect with those authors that you love and there's illustrators that you love.


Lauren Martino:  I know it can’t be easy to deal with this crowds and these crazy people all day long but–


Dana Alsup:  And I’ve also said there is some graphic novels that are classic novels that have been put into a graphic novel form, so you can also search for those.  If you're familiar with that novel then that's a good introduction into-


Amy Alapati:  A Wrinkle in Time which is coming out in a movie format, in spring that would be a good choice for you.


Dana Alsup:  Or reread the classics that way, it gives you a different perspective on the-


Amy Alapati:  The Rick Riordan books are all graphic novels, the Percy Jackson books-


Lauren Martino:  There's that MacBeth with animals that’s like hilarious because the queen is the cheetah and she says, “Out damn spot!”


Amy Alapati:  We talked a lot about graphic novels for older readers and teens, but if you're looking for something for your very, very most beginner most reader then my personal favorite graphic novel of all time is The Adventures of Polo by Regis Faller.


Lauren Martino:  Oh, yes.


Dana Alsup:  It's a wordless book and it's a very imaginative tale about a little dog who sets out in a boat and finds adventure.  And that would be good for kids ages three and up.  It's filled with wonder though, so even an older child might enjoy it.  It was a personal favorite of mine and my youngest child, and now my youngest child is in art school hoping to be a graphic novelist inspired by all the wonderful books that Montgomery County Public Libraries has in its collection and beyond.


David Payne:  A future guest at MoComCon.


Dana Alsup:  Hopefully.


Lauren Martino:  That sounds like a good one to have your child tell to you.


Amy Alapati:  Absolutely.


Lauren Martino:  But they can’t read yet but they can tell you the story and they can-


David Payne:  If someone is unable to actually attend MoComCon this year, is there any other way they can participate?


Dana Alsup:  Yes.  There are 19 lead events at various branches throughout the county that are happening in January.  And you can attend those, they're all on our website, there in our paper calendar, that you can pick up at any of our branches, but there is movies, there's crafts, there's story times, there's all kinds of fun stuff happening.  You can make your own superhero at Little Falls on January 24th, you can celebrate MoComCon with Harry Potter at Maggie Nightingale by making your own mandrake and watching the first Harry Potter movie on January 25th.


There is also on the 25th at Marilyn Praisner, a fandom Jeopardy, so you can compete to show how amazing you are with your fandoms if you can't come to our fandom rooms.  There's a ton of stuff happening in the county throughout January.


David Payne:  And a reminder you can find our complete list of events on our MCPL website.


Lauren Martino:  Do you have any costume suggestions for anybody that might be last minute can't think of anything?


Amy Alapati:  You know what any costume is great, store bought costumes are great.  In the cosplay contest you're going to want to make a homemade costume if you want to win or do well, but you're welcome to wear any kind of costume.  I like closet cosplay, so a lot of times my cosplay costumes are not – they don't look exactly like the character from the movie or the TV show.  I find a blue dress in my closet and I write police box on white tape and put it across.


Lauren Martino:  You made that, you made that.


Amy Alapati:  Yeah.


Lauren Martino:  Oh, my goodness I didn’t realize that.


Amy Alapati:  So when I find a blue hat and I take a dollar store votive candle and put a cut up spice container over it and that's the light on top of it to be the TARDIS light.  So I'm a big fan of costume making out of whatever you've got in your closet.


Dana Alsup:  You can easily be like a, you can go to Hogwarts put on a pair of slacks and a sweater and a tie, and draw a lightning bolt on your forehead and you're good to go.  You can be you know, casual at home Harry and just wear your everyday stuff and put [indiscernible] [0:32:44].  I have always, personally I've always wanted to dress up as Hans Solo, but I don’t really – I have not had to dress up for Halloween for years now and so I haven't yet.


Amy Alapati:  Last year I was the TARDIS but I went to Awesome Con this year and I had, I wore my TARDIS costume one day.  I was Professor Sprout another day, and I made that costume just with some brown fabric and I cut arm holes into it and made a cape, and then I cut out some leaf shapes from green fabric and stuck them on it, and made a brown burlap hat and just had some wool flowers in my closet and so I just wrap them around.  And then my kids had, had – My family we've had at least three or four Harry Potter birthday themed parties for my two children that I have.


Lauren Martino:  But who’s counting.


Amy Alapati:  And one year they went out in the woods and got sticks and burnt the tips of them and those were wands that we gave to everybody.  So that was my wand, it's not a fancy wand, it's not a special expensive wand.  It's a stick from the woods and they just burnt the tip of it and that was my wand so.


Lauren Martino:  Wow.


Amy Alapati:  Yeah.


Dana Alsup:  You can do a lot with just use your imagination, you can be Amy Pond from-


Amy Alapati:  You could be Amy Pond.


Dana Alsup:  You could just wear a plaid shirt and pants and shoes, Amy Pond everybody it’s-


Lauren Martino:  Remind me who Amy Pond is I’m sorry.


Dana Alsup:  Amy Pond.


David Payne:  Doctor Who.


Lauren Martino:  Okay.


Dana Alsup:  Yeah she one of the Doctor’s who [crosstalk] [0:34:10] she’s the eleventh doctors.


Amy Alapati:  The eleventh first female.


David Payne:  The eleventh doctor.


Amy Alapati:  First female first companion.


David Payne:  First companion.


Lauren Martino:  First companion.  Okay.


Dana Alsup:  Amelia Pond she’s [crosstalk] [0:34:20].


David Payne:  More formally known yeah.  We ask all of our guest one closing question, tell us about a book you've enjoyed recently.


Dana Alsup:  I am currently in the middle of Carry On by Rainbow Rowell, I loved Fan Girl which is – this kind of ties into it all with fandoms.  Fan Girl was fantastic and then Carry On is the story that is discussed with in fan girls and I reading Carry On and it's-


Lauren Martino:  Oh is that where it came from?


Dana Alsup:  Harry Potter-esc.  Yeah it’s, that’s where it came from..


Lauren Martino:  Because I picked it up but I had no idea that there was a precedent.


Dana Alsup:  Well and Carry On as written after Fan Girl, because people wanted to know about this story that the main character is writing fan fiction for.  So I’m in the middle of that and it's very Harry Potter-esc I feel like I know where it's going, but it's fun and it makes me feel happy right before bed time which is when I read it.  And then I was reading today before I came here.  I am just halfway through it, a children's graphic novel that we just got in at the branch called Pashmina by – I'm going to try this name Nidhi Chanani and it's about eight.  I think she's like 16 or so, 16 year old girl and her mother is – she's Indian her mother is from India and she will never talk about India, she won't talk about why she left, she won’t talk about her father and the girl – the daughter finds a Pashmina that she puts on, and when she puts it on she's transported to India, and she starts to learn about India and her past and everything.  But I’m only half way through.


Amy Alapati:  That’s good that you won’t give away the ending.


Dana Alsup:  So I did put a hold on it so that I can get that back in my hands, but sadly it had to go somewhere else first.


Amy Alapati:  And a recent favorite for me would be Broccoli Boy, The Adventures of Broccoli Boy Frank Cottrell Boyce, and it's about a boy who wakes up one day and he's green, his skin has turned green and nobody knows why, so they quarantine him in the hospital, but he knows why he's sure that he's turned green because he's a superhero, because the only green people that you know about are superheroes, the Hulk, the Green Lantern.


So he's convinced that he's a superhero and he's got super powers, so he sneaks out of the hospital at night and he does super heroic deeds with these superhero powers that he is convinced that he has, but does he really have those powers and what happens when some of his friends start to turn green too and they’re put in quarantine with him, and one of them is not really a friend, one of them is more of a bully, not even a frenemy but a bully.  And I don't want to tell you what happens after that you'll have to read it.


David Payne:  But there's no connection to him turning green and eating broccoli?


Amy Alapati:  You’ll have to read the book, you’ll have to read the book and keep eating your broccoli.


David Payne:  That’s right.


Amy Alapati:  You never know.


David Payne:  Anyway Amy and Dana, thank you so much for joining us today, for giving us a sneak preview to what sounds to be a very, very exciting MoComCon 2018, I can't wait for that.  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 review and rate us on Apple podcast, we'd love to know what you think.  Thank you for listening to the conversation today; see you next time.


David Payne:  Don't forget MoComCon MCPL's Comic Con will take place at Silver Spring library on Saturday, January the 27th;; we’ll see you there.


[0:37:50] [Audio Ends]

Jan 16, 2018

Episode Summary: Librarians Amy Alapati and Dana Alsup discuss MCPL's upcoming comic convention, MoComCon. The event will include a variety of panels, workshops, programs, displays, exhibits, and cosplay, all free of charge.

MoComCon will take place at Silver Spring Library on Saturday, January 27, 2018 (weather date is February 10) from 11 AM - 4 PM. Parking, which is free on Saturdays, is available in the Wayne Avenue Garage at 921 Wayne Avenue. 

Recording Date: December 13, 2017

Hosts: Lauren Martino and David Payne

Guests: Amy Alapati, a children's librarian at Damascus Library is a member of the committee organizing MoComCon. Dana Alsup, a librarian at Marilyn Praisner Library, is the chair of this year's MoComCon Committee.  

Featured MCPL Resource: Free WiFi is available in all MCPL branches, no special encryption settings, user names, or passwords are required. 

What Our Guests Are Reading:

Amy Alapati: The Astounding Broccoli Boy by Frank Cottrell Boyce

Dana Alsup: Carry On by Rainbow Rowell, a follow on novel of Fangirl, and Pashmina by Nidhi Chanani

Books Mentioned During this Episode:

Adventures of Polo by Regi Faller

American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

Boys of Steel by Marc Tyler Nobleman

Bill the Boy Wonder by Marc Tyler Nobleman

Dog Man by Dav Pilkey

March trilogy by John Lewis 

Maus by Art Spiegelman

Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales by Nathan Hale

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

Saints by Gene Luen Yang

Shaun Tan - Author of children's graphic novels including The Arrival and Tales from Outer Suburbia.

Raina Telgemeier - Children's book author known for her novels Drama and Smile

Other Items of Interested Mentioned During this Episode

Cosplay - Costumed roleplaying that involves wearing costumes and accessories to represent a specific character. 

Don Sakers - Baltimore/Washington area author and sci fi convention speaker.

Futuremakers - Organization focused on providing training, tools, and materials for makers. 

MoComCon - MCPL's comic convention. MoComCon will include a variety of panels, workshops, programs, displays, exhibits, and cosplay, all free of charge. 

Amy Pond - Character in the Doctor Who series. She was the first companion to the Doctor in his 11th incarnation. 

San Diego Comic Con - The premiere comic convention in the United States. 

Read the full transcript

Jan 3, 2018

Listen to the audio

David Payne: Welcome to Library Matters with your host David Payne.


Lauren Martino: And I'm Lauren Martino.


David Payne: And as we kick off the New Year 2018 and we haven't quite forgotten 2017 and here to discuss the 2017 book here with us, two MCPL staff members, JoEllen Sarff, who is with our collection management department and Dianne Whitaker, who is branch manager at Wheaton Interim Library. We're going to be talking a lot about books obviously and a lot of titles will be mentioned and a reminder that you can find the list of everything that's mentioned in today's podcast by going to the Library Matters website and checking our show notes. So looking back over 2017, what kind of year has it been for literature? How would you both sum up the year?


JoEllen Sarff: I think children's and teen books it's been a very good year. We've seen many more diverse characters represented in the books that have been published. There are more biographies of people of color and international people, lesser known people that are important to our world. In the adult fiction and adult non-fictions areas, this year, I saw that the refuge experience in the United States and in Europe was a theme as well as the stranger in a strange land kind of experience. It definitely seemed to be a theme in the fiction. There were more people from multicultural backgrounds, diverse backgrounds who were writing and getting published this year. In addition, in the non-fiction area, racism and totalitarianism were big themes, and for instance, the national book award of non-fiction winner was The Future Is History.


David Payne: So in terms of quality then, you would say, sum up 2017, a good year overall.


JoEllen Sarff: Yes, definitely.


David Payne: Well, looking back over the year, which of 2017’s hottest titles took you both by surprise?


Dianne Whitaker: What took me by surprise was the emergence of classic old literature that became top of the best seller list. For instance, it can happen here by Sinclair Lewis, the Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood and the subsequent television show on who and which one and Emmy award for best drama and the 1984 by George Orwell were all top of the best seller list.


JoEllen Sarff: And I found interesting that a very old story that was just written in pieces by Mark Twain, he has become very popular, The Purloining of Prince Oleomargarine and it was actually Mark Twain wrote it, wrote down pieces of it as he told his daughters a bedtime story and it was found in Berkeley where his papers are kept. An author took that and wrote the rest of the story, filled in the gaps. So it's kind of interesting to see over 100 years ago, here we have Mark Twain coming back with a new story that no one's ever heard before. The other one is a book called After the Fall by Dan Santat and it's about what happens to Humpty Dumpty. And, the rhyme says that Humpty Dumpty couldn't be put back together again, but in this book, he is put back together. And it's a very interesting story about how he's afraid of heights and he doesn't want to go back on the wall, so it gives children a support when it's okay to be fearful and that he overcomes his fear and does go back on the wall to watch his beloved birds.


David Payne: Very interesting. Who knew that Humpty Dumpty would be the star of 2017?


JoEllen Sarff: Exactly.


David Payne: What's in store for 2018 I wonder? So breaking down by genre, what in particular stood out for you both in fiction, anything that really comes to mind and was it a good year in fiction?


JoEllen Sarff: I think it was a very good year in fiction. There were lots of different stories told with lots of multicultural characters, people from other countries. Two that kind of stand out for me is the Wishtree, which was written by Katherine Applegate and it's a story told by a tree, the tree is red, he's been around for 216 years and he's seen many things happen. And one day, someone carves the word leave, leave into the tree and there's a new immigrant family that's Muslim that lives in the neighborhood. And so, the owner of the property is thinking, well, should I cut the tree down, should I leave it, it's a permanent mark on the tree. And so what happens when the tree tries to help carry things along and has a very satisfying ending. And the other book is Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds and the whole story takes place in 60 seconds. And it's about a boy whose brother was killed and he has a code where you don't cry, you don't snitch and there's always revenge. So he gets on the elevator on the seventh floor of his house, he's grabbed a gun, put it in the back of his waistband, and as he gets eight floor, he stops and someone gets on the elevator, someone who's passed away, but has a message for him and what happens when he gets down to the ground level, what's he going to do, very powerful, yes.


David Payne: like to see that Dianne?


Dianne Whitaker: Several books stood out for me this year. In historical fiction and it was also I think kind of a literary fiction book was Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders. It was really a unique book because it started off, was telling the story of the death of Willie Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln son and his first - when he was first in the White House and - but that's just the beginning, that's just the stage for the book. The book is really about the - almost I guess the battle for Willie's soul as he is in the Bardo, the netherworld between death and the afterlife. And Lincoln - Abraham Lincoln comes to Willie to grieve and show his love that he misses him so much and so Willie has a hard time going on, but what's really unique about the book is it's told in multiple voices of the ghosts, the spirits that inhabit the cemetery and inhabit the Bardo. And they are amazed at the love that Abraham Lincoln has for Willie. And what's really I think really unique is, you're going back and forth in different spaces of time and place over a course of several months. It's not truly a narrative fiction. So it is very unique and it won the Man Booker award for this year.


Another title that I really liked this year was the final book in the Broken Earth trilogy N.K. Jemisin, The Stone Sky. It really was probably one of the best fantasy books that I've read in many years. The whole Broken Earth trilogy, the first book, the Fifth Season won the 2016 Hugo, the second book, the Obelisk Gate won the 2017 Hugo and I suspect The Stone Sky will be running for the 2018 Hugo, but basically, it's the story of a person in an alternate Earth where they have these cataclysmic geologic disasters known as fifth seasons and it turns out that it could be very far in the future in an alternative Earth, but it's the theme and it is actually racism underneath and how you overcome slavery and those are told, so that it has an actual - very intense moral message for our time and it's also the story of love, both romantic love and love between a mother and a daughter. I would highly recommend that. And as far as non-fiction, adult non-fiction, I really like the Hidden Life of Trees, which gave me a really interesting perspective on how trees are in forest for a reason, they communicate through the roots and they live together in community and it's a narrative non-fiction told by a German forester and I would highly recommend people reading and if they really want to understand why nature needs to be protected.


Lauren Martino: So we've talked about some of the adult titles that have been popular this year. Can you tell us a little bit about the outstanding children's and young adult titles?


JoEllen Sarff: Yes. There are many. To choose from, it's hard to just do a few. I would like people to know about Lauren Wolk's book, Beyond the Bright Sea. It's an interesting story about a baby who set adrift and lands on an island and an older gentleman finds her and cares for her. And she knows nothing about her past, nobody does and when she becomes older, they notice that there are some fires off in the distance and the fires are coming closer, so they're a bit concerned what this all means. And as the story unfolds, you find out more about her past and what the fires mean.


Lauren Martino: So this isn't some sort of like maybe future scenario where we're not quite sure?


JoEllen Sarff: I want to yes. One of those where you kind of go, oh, okay, it's - we're not quite sure what happened.


Lauren Martino: So a little bit ambiguous, now trying to figure out the entire time exactly what's going on. It is interesting.


JoEllen Sarff: Exactly. And another book that people might be interested in is Step Up to the Plate. Maria Singh wrote this book. It's a historical fiction, 1945, California, the city towns, people want to start a girl's softball team and the main character in this story wants to be on the team and so it's her getting ready to prepare for the team and that her family heritage is interesting. She has a Spanish mother and her father is Eastern Indian. You learn a lot about her family as you read the book and how she tries to get on the team. And I talked about Wishtree a little bit earlier and that's one of my favorite books for this year about the old oak tree and how they try to save the oak tree from being cut down and wishtree comes from hanging wishes on the tree on May 1st and the owner of the tree had forgotten about her family history and how that came about and how they resolved the tree issue.


David Payne: Interesting that trees have [CROSSTALK] [00:11:31].


JoEllen Sarff: And you find out the trees are named just very plainly. It's red, because it's a red oak tree. And his friend Bongo who is a crow, the two of them talking.


Lauren Martino: So it's from the tree's perspective?


JoEllen Sarff: Yes. It is. The tree and the tree - you have the tree's thoughts and at one point, he actually says something to a human being, which is something you never do. Trees don't talk. But they did. So that was very interesting. And a couple of children's books, the Wolf in the Snow and if you've seen that one as -


Lauren Martino: I don't think so. Is it a picture book or?


JoEllen Sarff: It's a picture book it has a little boy in a red snowsuit on the front and a little baby wolf and they both are out in the snow and they get lost in a snowstorm. So they're walking, trying to find their homes and they find each other. So the little boy is almost wordless, but the boy kind of helps the wolf because he can't walk in the snow. It's getting too deep and he carries him and then they hear wolves howling and the little boy is frightened and suddenly, you have a little boy holding the wolf, baby wolf and momma wolf and you wonder what's going to happen. Well, momma wolf takes baby wolf and then the wolves kind of follow him and then he finds his way. And the other one is Rooster Who Would Not Be Quiet by Carmen Deedy.


Lauren Martino: Yeah. It's gotten a lot of buzz. Hasn't it?


JoEllen Sarff: I guess, you heard her tell stories twice. She's an incredible storyteller and now she's starting to write some of her own stories and putting them in picture books.


Lauren Martino: Like Martina the Beautiful Cockroach.


JoEllen Sarff: Yes. She has another one. I hope she does. I heard her tell a story. It's about the sun and the moon and how this sun and the moon don't pass and the moon always wants to see the children, but she can't because it's night out and so how they work that out and I hope she makes that into a picture book in the future. Let's talk about it.


Lauren Martino: Do you have any Dianne?


Dianne Whitaker: One I would add to the list is Amina's Voice. I really liked that book. It's a story of a young girl who is 11, going to middle School for the sixth grade and she's got a best friend, Soojin. Soojin is Korean American and Amina is Pakistani American. And Amina becomes very upset because Soojin starts to be friending another girl named Emily who Amina is not quite sure she likes her and she, in a way becomes a little bit jealous of Soojin and Emily's relationship. As it happens, it's very typical middle school.


Lauren Martino: Yes. It's like half of all middle school books, but it's true life.


Dianne Whitaker: But the truth of it is Amina is also coming to terms with her identity as a young Muslim and there's things about being Muslim, she doesn't like because she has a very overbearing uncle who comes to visit and he tells her that she's got - she loves music, she loves to sing, she likes playing the piano and he tells her music is not something that she should be doing, tells her father that. And so, she's not real thrilled with that. And she's very concerned because she wants to stay being a good girl, but she loves her music. But she also is - she's looking forward to a Quran competition where they do a recitation of the Quran and then their community center, I guess, the mosque is vandalized. And it's how things turn around or change because of the vandalism, that's the crux of the story. And it just seemed very appropriate in their time, because I thought it that there might be a lot of middle school and upper elementary children in their community who might find it very, very good read, so. Yes. It was very good, very good.


Lauren Martino: And now a brief message about MCPL services and resources.


Febe Huezo: Hey, did you know that a library card is a must have in your wallet? With a library card, you can download books, learn a new language in my favorite download music. Visit a nearby branch and get your library card today. So the next time someone asks you what's in your wallet, you can show them your MCPL card.


Lauren Martino: Now, back to our program.


David Payne: Well, out of all that you read this year, if you have to choose a gift for somebody, give a book as a gift, what would you choose and why?


JoEllen Sarff: Well, it depends on the person. I couldn't choose just one title. I would - there's like two or three titles that I would choose. The Broken Earth trilogy, I would give to the science fiction fantasy fans in my family, it is just so good that I felt that they would definitely enjoy because of the emphasis on love and just the unique setting of a geologic upheaval that these people are going through and just all the overcoming of the enslavement and just how they become better people and then find their identity through who they are. And it's definitely adult book. It's - has strong sexual themes in it, but it is really, really got a good message.


Lauren Martino: So it's science fiction that really focuses on the human aspect?


JoEllen Sarff: Yes, definitely, particularly estrangement between mother and daughter and then the love between mother and daughter and that's one of the key themes in it.


David Payne: Sounds like a good read.


JoEllen Sarff: It is - the other one that I would - for the non science fiction fans, I would recommend, it is actually a book from last year, but I got hold of it and read it this year was Hillbilly Elegy. It was a really good biography about overcoming hardships and particularly what it's like to grow up in rural Appalachian Rust Belt, southern Ohio and actually become a very successful person. And I think knowing different people that - those would be by choices. Also Neil Gaiman's mythology, Norse mythology would be another choice that I would give, because actually my son in law asked for that.


David Payne: Yeah, and your game is always a winner.


JoEllen Sarff: Necessarily yes, and the audio books too. Well, he tells the stories in current English that is easy to understand, but he brings them to life in a way that’s uniquely Neil Gaiman.


Lauren Martino: And just some of the dry, like, I'm going to kill you and this is the way he says it. It's hilarious. But not every author can narrate their own audiobooks and Neil Gaiman is the strong exception. Sorry, I'll stop with the audiobooks.


JoEllen Sarff: I have three giftbooks that I'd like to suggest. The first one is Red and Lulu by Matt Tavares. It's a story about two cardinals that live in this huge pinetree. More trees? Yes. And one day Red is off gathering some food to bring back to Lulu and when he comes back, the tree has been cut down and it's on a hotbed truck pulling away from the house that they've lived up in front of her salon. And he's just frantic. So he starts flying as fast as he can trying to keep up with the truck and he can hear Lulu talking. She's crying to him and he's reassuring her, I'm going to be there, but they are going to New York City. And there's this incredible picture where Lulu, friend Red is over here and you see the George Washington Bridge and you see the truck with a tree way in the distance. And so, he frantically flies all over New York, looking for the tree. And he remembers a song that people sang, the old Christmas tree and he hears that song. And he finds Lulu. It's just a really sweet story. Another work book is called Dance by Matthew Van Fleet. And it's about a little chick that was born, hatched out of an egg yesterday and he goes to the local dance hall, because he says, "I don't know how to dance." That's his first priority. I am born, need to dance. And so he meets various people in the dance hall and the hippos teaching the [hula] [00:20:58], the rabbits teach him how to hop and the crazy pigs teach him how to tap. So at the end of the book, you see him doing all the various dances. It's a word book with flaps, little hinges that actually turn. So, it would just be a great one for preschool. And I could just see them learning the dances and then dancing and [CROSSTALK] [00:21:25]. And then for the older non-fiction, there's a Harry Potter journey through magic book, which is really beautiful. It's got lots of color pictures and talks about the history of magic and brings Harry Potter movies in a - books and movies into it.


Lauren Martino: Is there anything you're still waiting on or anything you didn't quite get finished this year that you're excited about?


JoEllen Sarff: Many


Dianne Whitaker: Me too. I have a fairly long list of titles that I would like to read for and I actually have several holds. I'm looking at Pachinko set in Japan and Korea and it's - it was shortlisted for National Book Award, but as I said, it's a historical fiction set in the early 20th Century and other than that, it looked interesting. So I think I'll put that on - that's on my list. The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Roy - Arundhati Roy. That looks really interesting. It's on my bookshelf, but I haven't quite started reading it yet. Column of Fire by Ken Follett is another one on my list. The Radium Girls is another one on my list.


Lauren Martino: Just never ends. Does it?


Dianne Whitaker: It never ends. And Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson. I love biographies as well as historical fictions. So that one is definitely on my list too.


David Payne: Ken Follett's huge book will keep you busy for a while I suspect.


Dianne Whitaker: And I've read Pillars of Fire and World Without End. So I've read the other two. So it's just - I like the Century trilogy that came out in 2010, 11 and 13, 14 that that was good, but I like this one too.


JoEllen Sarff: One of the books that I've been interested in reading is called Tool of War by Paolo Bacigalupi. He wrote Ship Breaker several years ago and I really enjoyed that book and he's since come out with Dream Cities and this is another one I am not really calling it as sequel, it is just part of a series. So I'm not sure exactly how they are connected together, but in this one, their tool is actually a robot Android that works for the government. And -


Lauren Martino: A bureaucrat robot.


JoEllen Sarff: Yes. A bureaucrat robot and he becomes self-aware and decides he doesn't like what the government is doing. So, kind of - I mean, I'm interested in seeing what happens because I really did enjoy the first book. And the First Rule of Punk by Celia Perez. It's about a girl who moves to Chicago with her mom and she's always been a little bit of an outsider. She marches to her own drama. In the first day of school, she violates the dress code and then she meets up with the popular girl in school and she decides she doesn't want to be friends with her. She wants to stay with other people and she starts a band. So, this is definitely marching to her own drum. And then Clayton Byrd Goes Underground by Rita Garcia Williams - Williams-Garcia. It sounds like a great story about -


Lauren Martino: At one crazy summer.


JoEllen Sarff: Yeah. Right. And that Clayton's grandfather who was a musician passes away and his mother says that we can't play music in the house anymore. And so he just hurts - he wants to remember his grandfather, he went with him all the time and he plays harmonica, so he ends up running away and joining up with some of the men who his grandfather used to play with and they go out on the road.


Lauren Martino: This could be the year of the musical kids [CROSSTALK] [00:25:50] and Clayton Byrd. Yes. Diverse musical kids. Do you have any - so, this isn't a question on - we didn't prep you for this question, but do you have any new barrier, Caldecott predictions. I don't know if this will come out by the time they've announced them, but -


JoEllen Sarff: It should. I love Wishtree. I just think it's just one of those perfect books where there's so definitely for a new very - I'm hoping it's seriously considered. And Rooster Who Wouldn't be Quiet, Wolf in the Snow and Red and Lulu. I think they are all great contenders for the Caldecott. We'll find out.


Lauren Martino: We'll find out soon.


David Payne: Well, can you tell us some of the - give us any tips as to how we might find out about the latest books? What's coming out? What are the tools and resources that MCPL has that we can use?


JoEllen Sarff: The books and author's database is one tool to be using. I've been using it for about a year I guess and it's very interesting, because you can create an account, similar in a way to - you would use good reads where you can rate things and then you could - it comes up with reader likes or books that they would recommend as well. And you can see what's forthcoming, which I think is a good feature. There's also a Novelist, which also gives reader likes as well. And has a Novelist K-8, yes, and then there's our own forthcoming books on our website too.


Lauren Martino: our Digital Times too those splash up like with the top couple of titles that have been checked out for children and for adults. Those are kind of fun too.


JoEllen Sarff: I'd also like to suggest Beanstack as a good resource for parents where you can actually sign up your children and they will send you emails with suggested books. And there's also an adult component to that.


Dianne Whitaker: So I would just like to talk about some of the trends that I'm seeing in science fiction. One of the themes I saw this year was climate change becoming a theme. And dystopia in general has been a continuing theme as well. There was a September article in The New York Times about climate change fiction and several titles were from 2017 were recommended, including New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson. I finished reading last month and American War by Omar El Akkad and he's an up and coming new writer, Canadian actually. That was really interesting too because it wasn't just about climate change, it was about the future as though we had a civil war over climate change and the survivors. And it is set in the early 22nd century, in the Southern United States, so I’ll give you an hint on that, they also recommended born by Jeff Vandermeer who's a well known science fiction writer and that was kind of unique because it wasn't really climate change, it was more the after effects of pollution on the grand scale and genetic engineering go on a wry and it's a love story actually I think and how one person finds humanity by adopting a critter that is truly unique and how the interplay between bioengineered critters become paramount in their world of that time and how the two main characters come to terms with their past and they find their love surviving.


Lauren Martino: So we ask all of our guests here on Library Matters, what's in your bed stand that you're just dying to gush about and tell it. Share with the world.


JoEllen Sarff: Right now, I have two books on my nightstand and they're both fairly thick. The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. by Neal Stephenson is my science fiction of the month and then I also have the Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy.


Lauren Martino: So you're going to get to it very soon.


JoEllen Sarff: Next week.


Dianne Whitaker: I have an adult book on my nightstand, The Cuban Affair by Nelson DeMille. I belong to a book club and we're going to be reading it for next month and the other one is Wonder. I have not read it and I want to read it before I go see the movie.


Lauren Martino: [CROSSTALK] [00:30:49] we've had like five people ask this one after the other.


Dianne Whitaker: I hope to get to it this weekend and return it so someone else can enjoy it.


Lauren Martino: Have you started it yet?


Dianne Whitaker: No.


Lauren Martino: Oh my Gosh. That first chapter, it's like laugh cry, laugh cry, it's credible. Well, thank you so much Dianne and JoEllen for coming and talking to us today about what's been great this year in the world of literature. 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 review and rate us on Apple podcast and we love to know what you think. Thanks for listening to our conversation today and we'll see you next time.


[Audio Ends]

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