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.
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.
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 lynda.com.
David Payne: lynda.com 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.
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 www.montgomerycountymd.gov/library.
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]
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.
Julie Dina: Welcome to Library Matters, a podcast at the Montgomery County Public Library. I’m your host, Julie Dina. Everyone wants a friend and I’m glad to say Montgomery County Public Library has a friend with the Friends of the Library, Montgomery County chapter.
Today on the program, we have Ari Brooks, Executive Director, and Lance Salins, Business Manager of the Friends of the Library, Montgomery County chapter, FOLMC. Welcome guys.
Ari Brooks: Thank you.
Lance Salins: Yeah, thank you for having us.
Julie Dina: So let’s start of if you can let the listeners know what exactly is FOLMC?
Ari Brooks: We are a group of dedicated residents of Montgomery County who believe very strongly in the value of the library system and came together back in 1983 to make a good library system, a great library system.
FOLMC is first of all a parent organization, Friends of the Library Montgomery County to 17 chapters of Friends of the Library. So at the 21 branches here at MCPL, 17 of those branches have chapters that report under our parent organization.
Julie Dina: What would you say is the difference between the FOLMC and the Friends of each individual chapter?
Ari Brooks: Well, the major difference is that FOLMC, the parent organization works with the public library system to provide enhanced programs or services throughout the entire system. So we for example helped pilot a lot of the new materials in libraries that really didn’t exist back in the ‘80s or even in the ‘90s.
So we piloted the VHS tapes as a new media. So we purchased, I think it was $60,000 that we put into the collections budget. And then when DVDs replaced the VHS tapes, we purchased DVDs for the collections. We piloted CDs, musical CDs, to help the system to determine whether or not people would go to the library and check out other materials, you know, other than books or magazines, your traditional materials.
So those were the kinds of things that we provide, again, enhanced programs, services, and materials that are going to impact the entire library community. Another example of that is the fact that we piloted the first session management software found in MCPL. So remember a very long time ago when the computers were first introduced to libraries, volunteers and library staff actually cued the lines.
And then software was developed to allow you to enter your library card number to be able to use the computer for a certain amount of time. Well, we piloted that software first at the Long Branch Library. And then the library director came back and wanted to pilot another version of that. We purchased that. Again, it was piloted at the Long Branch, branch and at Gaithersburg because those were two branches that had traditionally the highest computer use, public computer use.
And so, again, we are in the position that we can help the system by funding things that will benefit the entire library community. Whereas the local chapters really work hand in hand with their branch mangers to look at what the unique needs are of their community and how they can fund programming that is very specific to their community needs.
So you might find more Chinese Lunar New Year programs at one branch because of a certain, you know, demographics or you might find more children’s programming at one branch or more programming for older adults at another branch. Again, based on demographics and based on what the branch manager says the community really needs. So that is the major differences. We’re looking at the system as a whole whereas the chapters are really focused on their branches in their communities.
Julie Dina: So tell us about your work with the FOLMC? Exactly, what would you say your role is in the whole thing?
Ari Brooks: Sure. Well, I’ve been the executive director for almost 15 years now.
Julie Dina: Wow.
Ari Brooks: I know.
Julie Dina: Did you start when you were five?
Ari Brooks: Basically, six.
Julie Dina: Six?
Ari Brooks: Six and a half. And so my role is to oversee the organization to make sure that the mission and vision as it has been carved out by the Board of Trustees is carried out. And we do that through a strategic plan to make sure that community needs are being met and that the residents of this county needs are being met through our support of public libraries.
So I get to work very closely with Lance who oversees the bookstore, so a big part of what I do is support him in his role. We do have a development staff that does your traditional fundraising. We’re a membership organization, so we recruit people to become members of Friends of the Library. We do receive grants. So there is a lot of very traditional fund raising that goes on as well. So I oversee all of those activities and the administrative functions as well. It doesn’t sound very exciting the way I’m describing it right now, but it is my –.
Julie Dina: I’m sure it is.
Ari Brooks: – life’s passion. It is a very rewarding work to know that I am in a position to be able to support something that every single resident of Montgomery County can ultimately benefit from.
Julie Dina: Sounds good. So who then can join the Friends?
Ari Brooks: You can join the Friends. Anyone –.
Julie Dina: I can be your friends?
Lance Salins: Anyone, everyone.
Ari Brooks: Anyone can join the Friends of the Library. We’re a very welcoming group. And we want to expand our base of friends in Montgomery County because, you know, when you consider how many people have library cards, all of those people potentially should be a friend of the library.
Julie Dina: That is true.
Ari Brooks: Even if you don’t have a library card or don’t consider yourself a library person or a reader, you should still be a friend of the library.
Lance Salins: Yeah, even if you’re not a regular library user every day and I’ve met people at our stores that say that they don’t – they just buy books new. They don’t use the library. But they – it is still would benefit them to support and be a friend of their library system because it is a community wide service that we’re providing, that everyone is providing. And so, you know, if they may not use it individually, other members in their community are using it. And so it won’t impact them that way.
Ari Brooks: Yeah. And I know that library systems have been tied into things like property values and having a strong library system is really in everyone’s best interest. And, you know, you might be a book buyer today, but you might not be able to be a book buyer tomorrow.
Julie Dina: That is true.
Ari Brooks: And you want that public library there so that you can access it in the event that you might need it. I know that in – the downturn of the economy, often libraries and especially our bookstores will see an upsurge and use. And so it is very important that communities have a strong library system regardless of whether or not you consider yourself a library user. So everyone is welcome to be a friend of the library.
Julie Dina: How can they join?
Ari Brooks: Well, you can join a number of ways. In our website @folmc.org, there is membership brochure throughout the entire library system in all branches. You can call into the office at 240-777-0020. And segue into the bookstores, you can actually join at the bookstores as well.
Lance Salins: Yes, that is what I was eager to say. You can come and see us at the bookstores. We’re open approximately 359 days every year. We offer a year round. We’re open 62 hours a week and are currently have two locations. At any time that we’re open, you can come in there and purchase a membership and it gets you 10% off of all materials at our bookstores.
Julie Dina: I would think that is one incentive that everyone should join.
Ari Brooks: Definitely. Many people come to get their membership card so that they can enjoy that benefit. But that is one of many membership benefits. We do programs throughout the year. We also do an annual gala during national library weeks. So we offer discounted rates on our events as well. MCPL also produces a quarterly calendar of events, so members who receive that from FOLMC through subscription. You also would get our quarterly newsletter which highlights our organization and events that we produce. So you get first-hand information about what is happening in libraries if you’re a member.
Julie Dina: And is this the same way you generate your funding or how exactly do you acquire funding?
Ari Brooks: Well, the largest funding strain comes from the use bookstores. And so –.
Julie Dina: Yeah.
Ari Brooks: – and Lance can speak to that. But membership – like I mentioned before, we do traditional fundraisings such as grants. We’re a large organization, a large arts and humanities organization in the county, probably a medium size, arts and humanities organization in the State of Maryland. So we are a large grantee through the Arts and Humanities Council. So we do received grants. So we also receive foundation support, so the Family Foundations. But definitely, the largest chunk of our funding comes from the – to use bookstores that we currently operate.
Male Speaker: And now, a brief message about MCPL Services and Resources.
Female Speaker: Flipster, what in the world is Flipster? Is it a new word game or gymnastics move? No, it is a great way to read your favorite magazines absolutely free. You’ll find entertainment magazines like “People,” news magazines like, “Time,” financial, children’s, fitness, and lots more. You can read the magazines in your browser or download the Flipster app and read them offline. You can find the link to Flipster and our other e-magazine resources in this episode’s show notes.
Male Speaker: Now, back to our program.
Julie Dina: And talking about bookstores, can you tell us something about your wonderful bookstore, Lance?
Lance Salins: I will tell you something, I can tell you anything and everything. It is really – I love the bookstores. That is how I was drawn into the organization. A family member of mine took me to the bookstore, they were like, “You should come and check out this bookstore, the prices are really good.” I went in. And the first time I was over there I spent two hours just wandering around. And it is in four weeks expanded our Rockville location.
I just was in awe looking at the shelves up and down. It is so affordable. You know, I was just not so long out of college at that point and so on a tight book budget. But every thing was just so – it was just amazing, the opportunity for a book lover to just create your own library, we are just immense. And so I just spend so much time wandering around. So I immediately signed up on the website to volunteer. And the bookstore manager at that time, he is still the bookstore manager at Rockville, got in touch with me. And so that was a little over years ago I started as volunteer. And I sort of worked my way to the position I’m in now.
But our bookstores, as I said earlier, they are open 62 hours a week to the public. We take donations from the public during our normal hours. And that is how we operate entirely is on donations from the public. And it is amazing. I am amazed every day at the quality of materials that we get. This is a wonderfully diverse area in terms of cultures and educations and backgrounds and interests. And we see that in our donations in the wonderful assortment of things that we get.
And we’ve grown a solid group of regulars that come from pretty much up and down the east coast to visit us because they know that we just get such an amazing panoply of things that they – and we get thousands of books donated to us every day. We sell thousands of books every day. The turn around is incredibly quick. We can sell a book within 10 minutes of it coming in, because someone drops it off and then we price it and someone else walks in the door and that is the book they have been looking for, for years. And so we see, you know, the confluence like that and it is really fun to see the books really enriching people’s lives like that.
Julie Dina: And it is funny you mentioned how you get an array of books daily. I actually read, I think it was in Montgomery County Media, about a book that the FOL bookstores recently sold for a significant amount of money. Can you tell us a little about that?
Lance Salins: Sure. That would the signed copy of Ernest Hemingway’s “A Farewell to Arms.” It was a limited edition that he did before publication. I think it was in 1929. And he was pretty young at that point. I think he was only 30. And so he signed. I believe it was 500 or 510 of these. It is fairly well-known book among book collectors.
And so a few years ago, one night a staff member was going through a box of books and he called me and I came over. And when I looked at him, he was very pale. He was like almost shaking a little bit. And I walked over and he said he just had the book in his hand, and he said, “Is this real?” And I looked at it. And I went, “Oh my.” And so I said, “Well, let’s find out.” We did a little research and then indeed it was real signed. He was holding and I was holding a book that Ernest Hemingway had once held and singed. It was number of 382 of 510 copies.
And it came in a Baileys Irish cream box, liquor box. Somebody had just dropped it off. Clearly, they had no idea what they had and what they were dropping off, but we were very grateful to receive it. We’re not even sure to this day who donated it. I suspect that it was in somebody’s garage or someone’s attic, you know, just a book that some of their family members have had. And it winded its way to us and we were delighted to receive it. And we were able to broker a sale and we sold it for $6,000 to a private collector in Oregon.
Julie Dina: Wow, all the way in Oregon.
Lance Salins: Yes. We had a listing online for it. It was online for a number of months. And we were finally able to find the right buyer for it.
Julie Dina: So would – can we then say that is true friend indeed.
Lance Salins: Absolutely. I would say, definitely a supporter of libraries, lover of libraries. And then as this the person who brought it in seemingly without realizing it, they just said, “Oh, I got this old box of books in my garage or my attic.” And they just dropped it off not knowing that there was $6,000 check in the box that we were able to convert it into that. But that is what we are relying on every day. And that is why I’m always very excited and eager to greet our donors when they show up, because often times they’ll be in the midst of something they’re moving. They’re downsizing. They’re dealing with an estate or their kids going off to college or any number of different life circumstances could lead someone to having to just get rid of stuff.
And so when they show up, and they usually like, “How does this work? Where do we drop it off?” And I’m just happy to say, “If you got books, we’d love to help you. We can bring them in. Thank you for bringing them to us.” They may not realize what they have, but that is our life blood, is those donors’ books. And as Ari said, it is – our biggest fundraising mechanism is our bookstores. It is our biggest face to the community. And we would not be there without the community every day being willing to donate to us, to shop with us. And really, it is a wonderful thing to see.
Julie Dina: And how often does this rare opportunity occur?
Lance Salins: You mean a collectible like that?
Julie Dina: Yes.
Lance Salins: I would say on a monthly basis, we get some very valuable books in. I just wrote in our quarterly newsletter which our members receive directly via the mail about a book of Picasso’s lithographs that is worth a few thousand dollars for original lithographs were produced for this book. I believe it is called "Toreros". And Picasso did those, I believe it was published 1961. And, again, I just found that going through an ordinary box of donations. And another one that we found was –.
Ari Brooker: The Andy Warhol.
Lance Salins: The Andy Warhol. Yes, thank you. We had a book that was doubly signed by Andy Warhol, once on the cover, the dust jacket of the book and on the title pages as well. And it is a beautiful book Andy Warhol’s exposure. It is a book compilation of his photos of his celebrity friends. I believe it dates from a book signing that he did in the 1970s in Downtown, DC. So it is two legitimate signatures by Andy Warhol who was just an icon of the Pop Art Movement.
So, on a monthly basis we get very valuable books like this. We’ve had signed – book signed by Langston Hughes. I think we’re up to nine different presidents that we’ve had book signed by that we’ve sold. I found three books signed by Richard Nixon just this week and a book signed by George Bush.
Ari Brooks: And presidential candidates.
Lance Salins: Presidential candidates as well, Bernie Sanders –.
Julie Dina: Wow.
Lance Salins: – Elizabeth Warren, anybody you can think of. We live in such a diverse area here. There are so many different luminaries in different fields. We get donations from lawyers, ambassadors, doctors, teachers –.
Ari Brooks: Senators.
Lance Salins: – senators, yes. They all, well, you know, a lot of them live in this area. And so if they have libraries or offices that they need to clear out they’ll say, “Well, we’ll just, you know, give it to a good cause, give it to the library.” They’ll bring it to us and we’re very grateful because they’re handing over sometimes treasures that we’re able to convert into funding for the entire library system, so.
Ari Brooks: And that is a testament, the ability to identify these books is a strong testament to the training that Lance provides to the managers and to our staff because we take very seriously our job to turn these books and these materials into moneys –.
Julie Dina: Yes.
Ari Brooks: – that we can then put back into the public library system. At the end of the day, that is what our purpose is, that is what our mission is, is to fundraise for the enhancement of Montgomery County Public Libraries.
Lance Salins: Yeah. And me and Ari talked about that a lot and I do with our bookstore staff. And we do have – a lot of people don’t realize, we do not pay professional trained staff that are evaluating these books at both book stores year around. It is not – we do have volunteers who are very grateful for their help, but we have paid staffs that are handling the money and handling these very valuable materials because as Ari said, we have a duty to the library system to make sure that it is carried out in the best way as possible in the best responsible manner.
Ari Brooks: Yeah, to extract value from them so that we fund these items that can benefit the entire Montgomery County Community.
Lance Salins: Yeah. And it is really a public trust from all those donors that stream to the store. They are trusting us to extract that value to benefit their libraries. When they drop off that box of books, eventually in their mind they’re thinking this is going to benefit the library. This is going to put a book in a child’s hand. This is going to provide better technology for library staff to serve the entire county.
Julie Dina: So this is big stuff we’re talking about here.
Lance Salins: It really is, yeah. We get – it gets lost some time in the day to day but really, we’re working to help strengthen and just make a better system for all of us, including ourselves. You know, we’re part of this community, too, so that is – I think I know that is why I love it and I think that is why Ari loves it as well is that we’re trying to make a difference and make a better system.
Julie Dina: And you guys are.
Ari Brooks: Thanks.
Lance Salins: Thank you.
Ari Brooks: And I think – and just to clarify Lance’s comment, it gets lost, I think, and not an – and we’re very clear about what our mission is.
Lance Salins: Oh, absolutely.
Ari Brooks: But it gets lost in the public when they see all these books coming in and the volume that comes in and goes out. It gets lost in the translation for other people who assume those books were given to us for a different reason. And so we’re very clear about what our stated purpose and mission is and why we’re doing what we’re doing and how we’re benefiting the community.
Julie Dina: And for our listeners who are now hearing you mention all these treasurable books, don’t be surprised if tomorrow you get tons of people come into the bookstore.
Ari Brooks: We love that.
Lance Salins: We welcome it.
Ari Brooks: Yes.
Lance Salins: That is our stated goal at the bookstores, is to be placed in Montgomery County where people can donate their books that they longer need and where they can purchase books for any and all purposes. We have a broad range of books. We take books in every subject, every language as long as it is in good condition we will accept it and we have customers from all over the world who buy for a number of reasons, including the philanthropic reasons.
Ari Brooks: Yeah. And so people can really responsibly donate to us. You know, if it is in sellable condition we will find a home for it. And then we have a variety of other ways that we responsibly handle the materials, including helping, you know, set designers with their sets. I think two years ago, books from our bookstore were actually featured in the White House Christmas display.
Lance Salins: Yeah, they were. They were crafted, absolutely a set designer for that – I believe that – I believe the first lady was working with to decorate the White House. She stopped by the – from a design agency and she spent a few hours buying books that they eventually turned into a tree of books. They arranged it in layers such that it resembled the traditional Christmas tree that was made entirely out of books.
Ari Brooks: Books that we – that couldn’t be sold because they were in a condition where you couldn’t read them at that point.
Lance Salins: Yeah.
Julie Dina: But it was still use –.
Lance Salins: She did, yeah.
Ari Brooks: You could still use like that – maybe like the cover of them.
Lance Salins: And she did buy them. We were able to sell them for that purpose. So if there is a book that we know – you normally wouldn’t put on a shelf because it may not be seem readable to the average consumer, we will make every effort we can to repurpose that book and give it, not only to raise funds by selling it, but also to keep it out of the waste stream, to give another purpose. We have people buy books to turn into clocks.
Ari Brooks: Purses.
Lance Salins: Purses, all sorts of different crafts. They’ll show up every month. They may go have a blank journal. I have had different –.
Ari Brooks: Art teachers –.
Lance Salins: Art teachers coming in.
Ari Brooks: – contacted us to work to have materials again that are not in sellable condition. Clearly, you know, there is pages torn out of them or –.
Lance Salins: Or see discs, compact discs or DVDs that are heavily scratched and won’t play. Even those, we have our teachers that work with the school system or home schoolers that will use them for arts, arts and crafts and collaging and repurposing. So that is part of our effort to be environmental stewards and to make sure that we are doing everything we can to lessen the landfill stream.
Ari Brooks: To lessen – to decrease our footprint.
Lance Salins: Absolutely.
Ari Brooks: Yeah. And so, you know, every book hopefully will have a home.
Lance Salins: Yes.
Ari Brooks: But then there are books that – and I’m sure your listening audience might want to know what does happen to books that are soiled beyond repair. And, you know, working in the used book business is a dirty business. And so we unfortunately do get books that are just completely beyond repair or books that would be at –.
Lance Salins: Beyond recognition. They’ll be soiled contaminated and this is where – but it does come with the territory and we’re prepared to handle that.
Ari Brooks: It could be hazardous if they were redistributed to the community at one point when we were also physically located in the lower level of the Wheaton branch. We have to not only protect our collection but the libraries collection above. And so if things with, you know, visibly molded, we do work. We have worked with Montgomery County solid waste division to train our staff on how to properly dispose of items that could be hazard to us, to our customers, and to library patrons.
Lance Salins: Yeah, absolutely. We work with them to train them – our staff on recycling the best practices just to make sure. There are such things as paper viruses that they will get into the paper and they can spread throughout collections. That is what Ari was mentioning about protecting not only our own collections but anybody that were collocated with, which we were at one point in the Wheaton branch. But that is all just part of our general management.
Ari Brooks: And we’re also, you know, very sensitive to help other communities want to handle their discarded books. So we work with – we have a volunteer who works with a rabbi –.
Lance Salins: Yes.
Ari Brooks: – to dispose of Judaica.
Lance Salins: Yeah. There is a certain way, listeners may not know, but there is a certain way that books in the Jewish faith need to be disposed off when they’re no longer readable. And so we do have volunteer that it is a member of a synagogue and he works with the rabbinic leadership there to make sure that those materials are properly disposed off in accordance with their cultural traditions.
Ari Brooks: So at the end of the day we’re book lovers.
Julie Dina: Yes.
Ari Brooks: We love books.
Lance Salins: From beginning to end.
Ari Brooks: From beginning to end and, you know, we definitely take very seriously our purpose to recycle these books and to repurpose them so that, again, that we can fulfill our ultimate mission, which is to use these funds to go back into the public library system.
Lance Salins: Yeah. We’ve sort of become – because our bookstores have grown so much, a lot of people don't realized we become a major recycling and repurposing resource in the county just because people come to us so much with these goods that they no longer need and they want for a greater cause that on our end we have taken these measures to be stewards of the environment and to make sure that we’re handling all the material, this great influx of material that we’re handling it properly.
Julie Dina: So that is plenty. You guys actually have – other than selling books you actually have this big operation. You have lots of stuff going on behind the scenes just to have everything going.
Lance Salins: Oh, absolutely. Yeah, we do. And we only had books. We had already form book imaginable. We have comic books.
Ari Brooks: We have vinyl records.
Lance Salins: Vinyl records, compact discs, CDs. Sometimes they buy the CDs cheaper than to download the album because we sell our CDs usually for $2 each and usually on online it can be $10.
Julie Dina: Don’t you have a coupon system that you –?
Lance Salins: We do.
Julie Dina: Yeah.
Lance Salins: We send that membership coupon when anybody signs up for their initial membership they’ll get a coupon. We distribute coupons at our events.
Ari Brooks: Yes.
Lance Salins: We’ve worked with schools, Montgomery County public schools, to do individualized coupons for programs that they have.
Ari Brooks: To help encourage reading and so that parents will know that there is a resource for their families to purchase affordable books, work a lot with home scholars, too, who purchased textbooks from us. I have known families who have bought textbooks from us so that their kids don’t have to take books back and forth to school.
And we also are the major funder of MCPL’s Summer Read and Learn Program. So the children and teens that participate and successfully complete that program also get a coupon as one of the many incentives that MCPL gives out to them. And we make a really big deal about that when the kids bring in their coupons and congratulate them on completing the program and, you know, making them feel really good about being readers.
Lance Salins: And vinyl actually on the upswing, vinyl records. There are people starting to release vinyl records. New bands are – were releasing new records in that format. A lot of audio files are seeking out that content, the order content because they prefer how it sounds in that format. We have a number of collectors that frequent at our stores so we’ve had a series of vinyl auctions collectible, vintage vinyl. And I believe MCPL is working on having an event next year that will focus on that community that –.
Ari Brooks: Yes.
Lance Salins: – help vinyl enthusiasts.
Ari Brooks: MCPL, FOLMC, the Levine School of Music, and Open Sky Jazz are partnering for a vinyl just for the record day.
Julie Dina: And this is sometime next year.
Ari Brooks: It is in April.
Lance Salins: Yes, still in the planning stages and we – at the bookstores we have a vinyl list people can join if they email bookstores at folmc.org and we keep people up to date on all of the vinyl collectibles because we do get vinyl – just like we get book collectibles we get vinyl collectibles. We sold records for as much as $400 individual records.
Julie Dina: That is a record?
Lance Salins: Yeah, yeah.
Julie Dina: No pun intended?
Lance Salins: But, yeah, which is exciting. We have people that shop. They’ll come by every day looking to see if we have new records.
Ari Brooks: Every single day.
Lance Salins: Oh, yes. They’re committed.
Ari Brooks: Every day there is – there are people who literally come every single day. I can remember going to the stores and seeing like the same guy. Every single time I went and go and asking –.
Lance Salins: They’ll be like, “Did I hire this person?”
Ari Brooks: Did they hire this guy, like?
Lance Salins: Yeah.
Ari Brooks: And when I see on the payroll why is he here every time I’m here and then we go – I, you know, find out that, no, he actually just comes every single day after work –.
Julie Dina: So it is not just because you’re there.
Ari Brooks: Right.
Julie Dina: It is because he is there all the time.
Lance Salins: Oh, yeah. We have committed regulars that we know by name and it is great.
Ari Brooks: That has got to really feel good.
Lance Salins: It does. We’re a regular part of their life in their community and now they’ll pull up a chair, and they’ll read, and they’ll shop, and they’ll talk, and they’ll meet other regulars, and they’ll talk, and they’ll trade book recommendations, and just talk about their book collections or their music collections and there is a lot of cross talking. That is really where we see the community aspect.
Ari Brooks: The community, yeah.
Lance Salins: And that is what we strive to be a welcoming community bookstore because we just think that it is a wonderful thing to see people enjoying books, enjoying literacy, artistic expression. It is just it is great.
Ari Brooks: And I think part of our success is that we turn the books over. When I think of used bookstores from my past, I think of the books being there, you know, the one month going back, the next month the book is still there.
Lance Salins: It is all static.
Ari Brooks: And then the book is on the floor and then the next time I go back and we actually have a constant turnover of books and are always seeking outlets to get the books into the hands of people regardless of whether they’re sold in our store or sold through other set –.
Lance Salins: Online, we sell online.
FeLance Salins: – online vendors.
Lance Salins: Where – then we’re like we sold the Hemmingway online just because it was such a rare item. The chances of having somebody walk in with $6,000 to spend –.
Julie Dina: Yes.
Ari Brooks: Right.
Lance Salins: – may not have been that high. But – so we do use online market places, but that is just to extract the greatest value and the greatest return for the library because that is our mission and that is our duty.
Ari Brooks: Right. So they aren’t sold in the store. There is another place that we will try to sell it.
Lance Salins: Oh, yeah. We’re constantly thinking of new channels and new ways that we can find homes for these materials and these books. And that is all to serve our greater mission. But it is fun and it is enjoyable to find new outlets and that is why we have these reading lists. We also have a comics list where we send out messages to comic enthusiasts to let them know we have a new batch of comics in and they flock.
I’ll go to the store the morning after I’ve sent an email to our comics list and they will be 10 people eagerly waiting inline crowding around the door because they want to get in there and start going through and looking for those comics to complete their sets or the comic from the their childhood that they’ve been looking for, for 15 years and they just can’t find it, or they can’t find it because it is, you know, a thousand dollars online and they’re hoping to find it on our store for a better price. Yeah, that is what we see.
Julie Dina: That is awesome. So we usually like to close the show off with what books are you currently reading? We’ll start with you first.
Ari Brooks: Okay. So I am finishing up "The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears" by Dinaw Mengestu, which is the big read book that we hope the entire Montgomery County will be reading with us from April to June of 2018. And I’m reading with my daughter the “Case of the Missing Lion” by Alexander McCall Smith, one of his young adult books.
Lance Salins: I am reading “The Bell Jar” by Sylvia Plath, which is amazing. I definitely recommend it. I’m only about a third of the way through, but it is very intense and I highly recommend it. I’m also reading a number of other things like I kind of tend to alternate and switch around with my books. And I also want to give a shout out with my niece. I currently – I’m reading with here, she is working her way through the Warriors series –.
Julie Dina: Yeah.
Lance Salins: – by Erin Hunter which is extremely popular.
Ari Brooks: The cats.
Lance Salins: Those cats get up to some really –.
Ari Brooks: I know.
Lance Salins: It is very –.
Ari Brooks: I’ve been there and done that with my daughters.
Julie Dina: Yeah, the cats.
Lance Salins: Yeah. Talk about intensity, oh my goodness. She was explaining to me all the intricacies of these different clans.
Ari Brooks: The clans.
Julie Dina: Yes.
Lance Salins: And all of the – just all the behind the scenes politics and backstabbing or I guess back cloying or all the different things. And it was – she would kept explaining it to me and I was just sitting there stunned because it was – it almost read like “Game of Thrones,” all the intricacies and just nine – just my nine-year-old niece is telling me all of this. I’m just like, “Wow, that is intense.” I was impressed with her grasp on all of it. So I give a shout out to the Warrior series for her.
Julie Dina: I hope you heard that, niecy [Phonetic] [0:35:48].
Lance Salins: Yes, absolutely. Or anybody that is looking for that great level, that fourth, fifth, sixth great level.
Ari Brooks: I highly recommend it.
Lance Salins: Yeah.
Ari Brooks: My older daughter went through that whole face and just gobbled those books up.
Julie Dina: Well, I’ve got to say this was very, very – a very, very nice conversation. And I have to mention that on behalf of Montgomery County staff, we want to say a very big thank you to our friends, Friends of the Library, for all the many show stopping programs you guys have been able to allow us to provide to our customers and for everything that you guys do. We really, really appreciate it. So thank you to Ari and thank you Lance for coming to the program today.
And keep the conversation going by following us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast on the new Apple podcast app, Stitcher or wherever you get your podcast. Also, please review and rate us on Apple podcast. We’ll love to know what you think. Thank you once again for listening to our conversation today and see you next time.
David Payne: Hello and welcome to another edition of Library Matters with your host, David Payne.
Julie Dina: And I’m Julie Dina.
David Payne: Today, we are talking about a genre which has become increasingly popular but increasingly difficult to define and that is science fiction. And here with us to talk about sci-fi and explain it, we have two MCPL staff members, Richard McElroy.
Richard McElroy: Hi there.
David Payne: And Beth Chandler.
Beth Chandler: Hello.
David Payne: Just a reminder that all of the books, authors, television shows, and movies that we mention during the podcast today can be found listed on our show notes on the Library Matters website.
Julie Dina: So why don’t we start the show off with asking the most obvious question? What exactly is science fiction?
Beth Chandler: Well, in my experience science fiction is a genre in which the creator extrapolates from our current technology and our current knowledge of the universe and projects what it might be like in the future.
Richard McElroy: In coming up with the definition I would try to, I guess, just still it into a few words as possible. And so based on these two words, science and fiction, it is just a work of fiction that is based around scientific technology. Because it is fiction, it would be based on technology that is not currently possible but that is feasible.
Julie Dina: So do we say is this – does this have anything to do with STEM?
Richard McElroy: That is right.
Beth Chandler: Because it has lot to do with STEM.
Julie Dina: Since everyone is talking about STEM these days.
Beth Chandler: You can find the elements of all sciences and technologies in it. And some stories also incorporate art, language, music, and other elements of, you know, basic – you know, anything that you think about with society or civilization, either hours or some potential civilization with very different beings.
Richard McElroy: Yeah. And it is great because it is fun, so it can encourage kids to get involve with STEM.
Julie Dina: It will encourage me for sure.
David Payne: So now that we’ve defined sci-fi and we know what it is, we tend to think of it, science fiction, as always being set in the future. Is that necessarily the case?
Richard McElroy: Well, I don’t think it has to be the case. It often is the case because that is the easiest way to present science that is not currently possible. But there has been plenty of science fiction that has been set in the present like, Jules Verne, set all of his books in the present and they were all about fantastic journeys into parts of the world that we hadn’t yet discovered using technology that wasn’t quite available at the time.
Beth Chandler: Definitely you can go back in the past – the past and have things for instance, let’s say Leonardo da Vinci had gotten much further with some of his inventions that never came to fruition. And we had 19th century technology back in the renaissance era. That is a possible setting for science fiction or could go back to the days in pyramids and say, “Yes, there really were aliens who helped build the pyramids.” And, you know, and write a story, you know, based on that with highly advanced technology.
Julie Dina: Now, science fiction is often paired with fantasy. Can you tell us why exactly and are there differences, are there similarities between the two genres?
Beth Chandler: One of the similarities is that they both deal with things that we don’t have in our present reality. And a lot of authors also write books of science fiction and fantasy, sometimes you can’t tell the difference. People who’ve read – may read very well know that. A lot of stories are fantasy and some of them edge into a combination and Martian Chronicles is a good example. He brings some characters from the past and from fairy tails into future stories about Mars and the Martians.
One of my favorite Manga, “Fullmetal Alchemist,” is mostly about Alchemian magic. But there is also something called automail, which is a prosthetic replacement for people that actually interacts with their own musculature and nerves that is something that were only starting to develop now these days. And this story was written more than 10 years ago.
Richard McElroy: Beth hit on this a little bit, but I think science fiction and fantasy are often paired together because they often look very similar on the surface. They both often involved aliens, and monsters, and spaceships, and explosions, and stuff like that. But I think the key difference is that science fiction as I said in my first answer is something that is feasible. It is something that we could see ourselves progressing towards as species, or as a society, or as fantasy as something that is not feasible. It is something where we have to suspend our disbelief and go into another world often involving magic or alternate universes or just world that don’t exist altogether.
Oh, and one other thing I’d like to add is a clear example of the difference between science fiction and fantasy is the difference between “Star Trek” and “Star Wars”. I think that “Star Trek” is a classic example of science fiction as it takes place in our world, set in the future based on scientific advancement, whereas “Star Wars” is more of a space fantasy. It is sort of this big opera that is about the story and involves magical elements and it is in a galaxy far, far away, and isn’t necessarily as directly related to the world that we live in.
David Payne: What has drawn you both to science fiction? How do you develop your interest for science fiction books, movies, and so on?
Richard McElroy: I was drawn into science fiction originally as a kid. I used to watch a lot of “Twilight Zone.” My mom would watch it a lot, especially the marathons that would go on TV. I believe on New Years Eve there would be marathons of Twilight’s unplayed. So since then I’ve always been interested in potential futures. I’ve always been interested in the questions about life and possibilities that it brings up.
Beth Chandler: I was to add a similar introduction. It was, you know, through TV. I grew up in the era of the “Star Trek: Animated Series,” which people growing up in the ’70s will remember. And actually we used to play “Star Trek,” my brother, and my cousin, and I. They always wanted to kill aliens and I was more interested in investigating new worlds and new civilizations which are the great appeal for me is exploring the unknown, getting to know that new ways of being – as ancient being.
Julie Dina: What is some of the best science fiction books you’ve ever read?
Richard McElroy: Well, I say that my favorite is probably “Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley. I – If you’ve only seen the movie and never read book, I highly encourage reading the book available at the Montgomery County Public Libraries.
The “Frankenstein” monster is a much more intelligent creature than he was in the movie. And it really grapples with a lot of questions about existence in our world. About what it is to be human? What it is to be a person? How to be an accepted member of our society? Some other preferred science fiction books of mine include “Childhood’s End” by Arthur C. Clarke and “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep” by Philip K. Dick. Also my favorite science fiction short story is probably “The Last Question” by Isaac Asimov.
Beth Chandler: I enjoyed the last question, too. I spent much of my teen years reading short stories, many by Isaac Asimov. My favorite for many, many years it does time with one or two others is the “Left Hand of Darkness” by Ursula K Le Guin. It is a story about a single human who goes as the envoy to try to convince a planet of humans who have been for millennia, millennia distance from other humans. He is going to influence them to join a sort of consortium of known worlds. And this particular planet has people who do not have one set gender. They become either male or female once a month.
Ursula K Le Guin when writing this said that she went to play with the idea of what would a society be without gender? So it is a very character-driven and concept-driven story, but also it has a lot to say about skepticism, how much politics influences things. And also quite a bit about the nature of friendship, loyalty and, you know, patriotism. In addition, she does manage to get some good humor into it.
Richard McElroy: I’m glad that you mentioned humor, because I love humor in science fiction, too, and some matters that I might mention are Kurt Vonnegut and Douglas Adams. “The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy” is just a fantastic, really funny science fiction book that is really easy to read. It is a short readable book that I highly recommend.
Beth Chandler: Yeah, that is a good place to start off with science fiction if you want something that is not going to throw a lot of data in advance science that you would also be very enjoyable. I enjoyed “The Hitchhiker’s” series myself. And actually my other favorite author besides Ursula K. Le Guin, Lois McMaster Bujold, has a wonderful gift for humor. And sometimes, you know, write up one of the most heart wrenching period to the story a moment later she will throw in this sort of rye joke. And you’re like, “I was almost crying a minute ago and now I’m cracking up.” So she was –.
Richard McElroy: – emotions.
Beth Chandler: Yeah. Yes it is.
Julie Dina: So she knows how to sneak it in.
Beth Chandler: She knows how to sneak it in and she has amazingly, you know, well rounded characters. There is, you know, cast of dozens in her “Vorkosigan Saga” stories. And when one pops up, again, I remember, you know, who they are, what their personality is, little bit of their history, very memorable.
David Payne: So let’s go from authors to characters. Which character from a science fiction movie or TV show would you most want as a co-worker?
Richard McElroy: Well, that is easy for me. And I think it is might be the same for most science fiction fans, but I would say Spock from “Star Trek”. He is unemotional. He is completely rational. He is the science officer. And so he is easily as efficient as possible because he doesn’t have to grapple with work place emotions that often arise. Who wouldn’t want to have Spock as a co-worker?
Beth Chandler: Yeah. I thought about Spock, too, actually. And then I thought, you know, he does have that occasional sort of rye almost sensitive humor. But, you know, if I wanted someone friendly to chat with, you know, my other favorite is the Fourth Doctor from the British Doctor Who series. He was one of my favorite doctors. He is cheerful. He is also very ethical. He seems genuinely fun to people. Does his best to get along with everyone and just gives this whole sense that, you know, everything is somehow okay and he is going to be okay. And we’re going to have a pretty, pretty good time dealing with it whatever it is.
Richard McElroy: And if you have a bad day just leave on his TARDIS.
Beth Chandler: Also true.
Julie Dina: So in your opinion, what elements should good science fiction book or film contain?
Beth Chandler: I think it needs to have something of everything. A good, you know, good plot, technology that is, you know, realistic to extrapolate from what we have now or is so far in the future that it seems realistic even though it is something that we can’t quite figure out how it will work. So you need that, the technology, a good plot line, characters you really care about. I love a lot of the old classic science fiction, but I have to admit some of the characters are basically there to, you know, support the technology and the plot and fortunately that has changed the great deal.
Richard McElroy: In my opinion, good science fiction provides a vision of the future that is connected to our present day reality. And the way I distinguished good science fiction from, let say hackey [Phonetic] science fiction, is that the good science fiction allows you to come up with your conclusions about whatever the subject matter is. It stimulates your own curiosity rather than telling you how the future should be.
A lot of science fiction I think often falls into the pitfalls of being preachy and saying how the future should look. Whereas good science fiction just sort of presents concepts that are difficult and doesn’t necessarily tell you what the answer is, but allows you to come up for the answer yourself. And a lot of that I think involves conflicting virtues. Science fiction often presents two different virtues that when taken to their extreme might clash with one another and it forces us to grapple with which ones we value more.
David Payne: Do you think then sci-fi has become more complex if we’re – if our world today is more complex and we’re looking – if we are looking at future worlds? Has it become more difficult to understand?
Richard McElroy: No. I don’t – I mean, I think that it is always been able to. It just progressed with the times and with the progression of technology. So talking about space travel in the first place was difficult to understand for people 100 years ago. And now what is difficult for us to understand is something like let’s say, the nature of consciousness and what it is to be a person and whether an artificial life form can have an equal status to a human life form and where do you draw the line between life and let say having your conscious uploaded on to a computer. There are a lot of questions that for us seem difficult now that might seem easy to those in the future and questions that in the past seem easy to us now but might have been difficult for them.
Beth Chandler: I agree with Richard. Science fiction is always dealt with some of the major more in philosophical issues going back to some of the classics. Isaac Asimov writing his Robot stories, you know, dealt with the question of, you know, a robot is more good for humans or bad for them and the answer seeming, you know, different and ambiguous going all the way up through his timeline further and further into the future. And he explored all sorts of advantages and disadvantages of that one particular type of technology the positronic robot that he created with his mind and his knowledge of science as it existed in the ’50s and ’60s.
Richard McElroy: It seems like most of the good science fiction coming out nowadays is about artificial intelligence because that is something that is really blossoming right now and it is – there are a lot of moral issues that come up there. We have to really have an understanding of if we’re going to move forward with the development of artificial intelligence.
Julie Dina: And now a brief message about MCPL services and resources.
Lisa Navidi: Ever wonder about the who, what and why of a book? Readers Cafe is a virtual meeting place for books and readers. Your one stop center for book clubs, book blogs, articles, and literally research. Take a look and you can be the envy of your literally chums. You can find the link in this episode show notes.
Julie Dina: Now, back to our program.
David Payne: Which science fiction world would you most and least like to live in?
Beth Chandler: The first book in the “Terra Ignota” series, “Too Like the Lightning” by Ada Palmer. She – this is just her first novel. She has only written one other when so far that has been published. And it is a future world about 300 years on from now where the, you know, the world is separated into entirely different concept, to what countries are. We finally have our flying cars and they can cross the world in the matter of hours. Still working on trying to colonize Mars, but there is a lot of wonderful things about the culture and the way human beings get along with each other. But of course, there is always that little deed of something that starts falling apart, so I’d like to live there before things start falling apart.
Richard McElroy: Okay. I would say that the science fiction world that I would most like to live in, you know, is about to go with “Star Trek,” which seems to be a common answer for me, but instead I’m going to go with “Firefly,” the TV show by Joss Whedon, because “Star Trek” is a little too sanitized for my taste, whereas “Firefly” is similar. It is a futuristic space series, but it is a little more wild west like. There is a little more freedom out there, a little more conflict, and it just seems like a more a fun universe to live in than, let say “Star Trek.”
David Payne: So looking back over the years, the whole history of the sci-fi genre, which sci-fi movie or novel written long ago and set either in the past or the current present is most hilariously wrong and which is the most accurate?
Richard McElroy: Well, I think it is very important to note that in ‘Back to the Future’ they went to 2015 and the newspaper headline said ‘Chicago Cubs win World Series.’ They were one year off. The Cubs won their first World Series in 110 years in 2016.
David Payne: Right.
Richard McElroy: So that was really impressively accurate.
Julie Dina: That was close.
Beth Chandler: Yeah. One I thought of – as being hilariously wrong was of 2001, “Space Odyssey,” the original book by Arthur C. Clarke in which he has people referring to hotels as Hiltons. He figured, you know, just as many people called refrigerators as frigidaires and adhesive bandages – Band Aids that we’d all be calling hotel Hiltons and we don’t. There are a lot of other things. There was a space station. We had gotten much further forward in space travel than he expected we would, which is one of the ongoing limits of a lot of science fiction fans as well as scientists themselves.
Richard McElroy: There are a lot of technologies that have been predicted very accurately like “Star Trek” for example. Can you tell that I like “Star Trek”?
David Payne: Oh, you bet.
Julie Dina: Yeah.
Richard McElroy: They were using these little screens that they had in their hands that were just like tablets today. They had –.
Julie Dina: iPads.
Richard McElroy: Yeah. They had communicators that were like cell phones. They had replicators where they would just create food or other objects that they needed out of these replicators, which are very similar to a 3-D printers that are currently available in the Montgomery County Public Libraries.
Beth Chandler: Library, yes. Although we do not make candy with them, but I – now make candy with some 3-D printers.
Richard McElroy: Oh, wow.
Beth Chandler: So we’re getting into Tea, Earl Gray, Hot.
Richard McElroy: Exactly. Also with the holodecks where this virtual reality rooms that you could go into and create any kind of reality you wanted. Now, we’re progressing with virtual reality which is coming soon to Montgomery County Public Library near you.
Julie Dina: One thing for sure, you do love your Montgomery County Public Library.
Beth Chandler: It is very good with that. And an interesting thing is that “Star Trek” was not the primary creation of just one person, but it has been written by a dozens of screen writers and multiple directors and producers have had their hand in, so it seems that crowd sourcing a science fiction story. You know, maybe said to help make it more accurate.
David Payne: That is interesting. So what are some of the science fiction books that contained characters of color or of the LGBTQ community?
Beth Chandler: Just to name a few, there is Nnedi Okorafor who is American who grew up in Nigeria. She has written several stories about – not just African-Americans, but primarily Africans. Several other writers Nalo Hopkinson is one, Ada Palmer, who I’d mentioned before has written a lot about characters both of various colors. Three-hundred years from now, most of us are going to be highly into racial, according to her. Very few people who are, you know, purely, you know, one ethnicity or another. And actually, one of our MoComCon guests last year and this year, Don Sakers, is a local author, has been writing for years about characters of color and characters in the LGBTQ community.
David Payne: So diversity very much of the heart of sci-fi.
Richard McElroy: Yeah.
Julie Dina: So what exactly would be the weirdest science fiction book you’ve ever come across, weirdest ever?
Beth Chandler: I will say it was more of a novella, but I would say one of the weirdest stories I’ve read by one of the strangest authors I’ve read, but I love him dearly is –.
Julie Dina: But he is weird?
Beth Chandler: Oh, yes. I -- to further out the better, I mean, I never did drugs because I said all I have to do is go pick up a Theodore Sturgeon novel, you know, as a teenager, or collection of short stories. And he wrote one story called The, and next few words are in brackets, [Widget], The [Wadget] and Boff. And it is about two aliens who are observing earth and making a small change to see if it can effect the larger change in the world, which is something more than one science fiction or author has done.
But this one is so bizarre by the way it puts everything from the alien’s perspective. Ordinary things like somebody trying to ask someone else for a date and meal times in children are seen through the view point of these aliens. So I would say that is one of the strangest stories by one of the strangest science fiction authors.
Richard McElroy: Unfortunately I don’t have anything to notch that.
Beth Chandler: Okay.
Julie Dina: Well, we do have, and I’m sure you both know that our MoComCon last year was very successful. We had tons of people come from the county and from the neighboring counties. Would you please explain to our listeners what exactly MoComCon is?
Beth Chandler: MoComCon stands for Montgomery County Comic Con, but like many conventions in the, you know, science fiction fantasy, comics, et cetera, you know, phantom, it is a convention that ties in a lot more than comics brings in, as I said science fiction and fantasy stories, movies, TV shows, and pretty much various kinds of nerdity including, you know, hot technology. And that is what you’ll be seeing in January at MoComCon.
Julie Dina: Yeah.
David Payne: So are you coming to MoComCon dress as a sci-fi character?
Richard McElroy: Well, indeed I am as I am an employee of the – well, I work at the Silver Spring Library. And fortunately for my co-workers my dream will come true for all of them because I will be there dressed as Spock, so they will get to have Spock as a co-worker for a day.
Beth Chandler: Oh, excellent. Delighted to hear Spock will be working with us. I’m on the actual MoComCon committee, so I won’t be able to dress up. I’ll be wearing one of our colorful and exciting MoComCon t-shirts. But I hope to wear a couple of buttons, almost certainly one of my buttons that says, “Prepare for the future, read science fiction.”
David Payne: Well, finally it is our tradition here on Library Matters to ask all guests to tell us about the book that you have enjoyed recently. What have you both enjoyed reading recently?
Richard McElroy: So this isn’t science fiction work. I haven’t read a science fiction book in a little while, but I recently read “American Pastoral” by Philip Roth which is a fabulous book. I highly recommend. It takes place in the recent past, so it is a recent historical fiction, novel you could say.
Beth Chandler: A book I read recently that I really enjoyed is actually a fantasy novel. And like many science fictions fans, I also read fantasy. It is the first in Philip Pullman’s new series, “The Book of Dust.” The title is “La Belle Sauvage.” And I thoroughly enjoyed going back into the same world as the previous series he’d written in the same universe about Lyra and a world where each human has their own demon which is a part of, you know, their own selves. And he writes a marvelous story taking place 10 years before the previous series. And just like in a good science fiction book, he has a wonderfully realized alternate oxford at alternate earth that you just dive right into. You can almost feel like, you know, you’re sailing along with the main character in his little boat.
Julie Dina: Well, thank you so very much Beth and Richard for all the wonderful information you’ve given us which relates to sci-fi.
Keep the conversations going by following us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast on the new Apple podcast app, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcast. Also, please review and rate us on Apple podcast. We’ll love to know what you think. Thank you for listening to our conversation today and see you next time.
[Audio Ends] [0:26:59]
Lauren Martino: Welcome to Library Matters. I’m Lauren Martino and...
David Payne: I’m David Payne.
Lauren Martino: And we’re here today with some of the most talented librarians in the system and they can cook too. This is Nalani Devendra and Dana Alsup. And they are going to talk to us today about their favorite cookbooks, their favorite methods, their favorite ways of preparing delicious goodness, and I am excited to have you guys here welcome.
Dana Alsup: Thank you for having us.
Nalani Devendra: Thank you for having us.
Lauren Martino: So, we’d like to know a little bit about you guys. We know you’re awesome librarians but tell us a little bit about you as cooks. What do you like to cook best? Do you have a signature dish? What makes you kick tick as cooks?
Dana Alsup: Well, I’m a recipe follower. I like following recipes. I’m not good at making stuff up and so I don’t feel advanced enough to not follow the recipe. But I – the more I cook, the more I understand like the elements of what I’m doing, like bread making. I made bread recently and I could feel, like I knew just kneading the dough like it’s right – it’s good, it just needs to rise now so.
Lauren Martino: You’ve gotten to that point where it’s like –
Dana Alsup: I’ve gotten to that point with bread-making alone. And then I like – foods I like best, anything fried, whatever, any – anything fried, my heart’s not probably happy about that, but I sure am. And my family is from New Mexico so anything with green chili on it –
Lauren Martino: Green chili.
Dana Alsup: Green chili is, oof, I heard great.
Lauren Martino: Legends. What is the deal with the green chili?
Dana Alsup: Well, it’s from Hatch in New Mexico which is a town and there’s – every fall, they do a roast, so it’s a big – it’s a big thing in New Mexico, and it is only – that’s where green chili is from. So I have a stockpile of green chili in my freezer at all times, put it in anything. Green chili mac and cheese. We’re going to put green chili in the stuffing for Thanksgiving.
Lauren Martino: Wow.
Dana Alsup: My favorite is green chili cheeseburgers. It’s not – they can be hot but they’re flavorful, so it’s not like a scald-your-mouth hot, heat pepper, its flavor. And in New Mexico, they’ll either ask you red or green but you can say Christmas, which means both.
Lauren Martino: Nice.
Nalani Devendra: I’m a lot more opposite with Dana. I’m not that much big follower of the recipe. I get something from the recipe but always I never hesitate to change the recipe, modify the recipe. I always go for the recipe to check how I can change this to my taste or my husband – especially my husband’s taste because I know he’s mostly prefer only to eat Sri Lankan food. But I’m making for him some type of other food, some touch with the Sri Lankan style. I have to be creative.
Lauren Martino: Oh, boy.
David Payne: So, a lot of experimental stuff?
Nalani Devendra: Of course, I do a lot of experimental stuff. Also, every time when my husband realizes I’m doing something, creating something, he is scared of that because he know he has to eat them. That’s what will happen. If I’m around, he’s trying to eat; if I’m not there, all these going to be in the trash.
Lauren Martino: Oh.
Nalani Devendra: Sometime. But most of the time, I have done good job.
Lauren Martino: So does that usually involve like kicking up the spice? I know you were telling me – we work together in the same branch and you were telling me about when you make stuff for work, it’s a – it’s different.
Nalani Devendra: Yes. I have to – I have two ways to cook. If I’m cooking for my husband, I cook as regular. And if I’m cooking for my colleague at work, I call for that – I call in for that the – I’m making a baby food because I’m not using that much spice on there. Normally what our country people do for the babies because they are not yet pick up the spice.
Lauren Martino: That’s all of us at Silver Spring. Yeah.
Nalani Devendra: But I believe now, I’m also enjoying baby food. I’m not anymore good with the spicy. Although, I cook for my husband, I cannot eat some time.
Lauren Martino: So I’m trying to picture what you’d have to do to like, you know, spaghetti or mac and cheese to make your husband like it.
David Payne: Yeah.
Nalani Devendra: Yes. If I’m doing mac and cheese, I mean, I will add pinch of crusted pepper, then it will give him some spice.
Lauren Martino: It’ll be enough for him.
Nalani Devendra: Yes.
David Payne: So, two very different approaches here.
Lauren Martino: Yes.
David Payne: Tell us, where do you get your recipes from? What are your favorite cookbooks?
Dana Alsup: Oh, that is an end-list, endless list. I like using cookbooks. And I found – I use blogs, Pinterest, of course. But a lot of times, a blog – well, the person who writes the blog comes out with a cookbook and there are so many of those and I love those cookbooks. And then you have the blog as like an annex of recipes, almost. So, The Forest Feast, which we own here at MCPL, we own two of the three cookbooks for it. The first one I use is the kid’s version. It’s – the kids’ books for cooking are a lot of fun and they’re very simple and there’s a lot of warning about how you might cut yourself. But The Forest Feast by Erin Gleeson is great.
Lauren Martino: What is The Forest Feast? I’m not familiar with this.
Dana Alsup: One, it’s beautiful. She was a food photographer in New York and now she lives in like beautiful Northern California, and they’re vegetarian recipes. But everything is about like five ingredients or less. So you don’t have to go – it’s like the opposite of America’s Test Kitchen. It’s like the antithesis of that, which is nice to say I only need five ingredients to make these, you know, tacos or these cookies or the salad. And a lot of times, it’s just three ingredients and it’s –
David Payne: So it’s cooking at its most basic?
Dana Alsup: Yeah. And it’s beautifully – it’s beautifully laid out, so it’s a pleasure just visually to look at but that’s – I’d say a lot of stuff comes from online, but then part of my job is looking at all the new books when they come in, so all of those new cookbooks go through my hands before they hit the shelf.
Lauren Martino: I feel like I’m always looking at those before lunch and then we just –
Dana Alsup: Oh.
Lauren Martino: I do love eating mediocre lunch while looking at beautiful pictures of food.
Dana Alsup: Yes.
David Payne: Clearly, timing is everything, yeah.
Dana Alsup: Yeah, it is.
Lauren Martino: So, Nalani, you were telling me a little bit about where you cook from.
Nalani Devendra: Actually, if I go back how I started –
Lauren Martino: Yes, tell us about those.
Nalani Devendra: I didn’t know whether I’m good with the cooking because I didn’t cook when I was teenage or after – until I get to this country. Actually, I didn’t cook much. But I do remember when I was very young, my father normally don’t cook. My mother was – who is cook usually. But especially in the Sri Lankan New Year actually I’m from Sri Lanka – at the Sri Lankan New Year Day, my father is the one who cook and I’m his helper. My mom got off on that day. And then I saw something different. I never want to watch how my mommy cook, I don’t remember how she cooked, but I do remember how my dad cooked because he made special dish on that day. And maybe that is why I love it. My father brought one cookbook which is very popular in Sri Lanka. I believe its name is [Gunasekar] [0:09:20] Cooking Book or something. He gave it to me, not for my mommy, not for my sister, he gave it to me. I believe my father knew whether I have a talent on that.
Lauren Martino: Yeah.
Nalani Devendra: Then my next start was in the America. I got to this country 2009. And since the second day of my life in America, I start watching the TV. Guess what I watch? My husband at work, I’m at home for eight-hour by myself, I turn on the TV, I found the Food Network. Almost seven hours I watched the Food Network at least for two months.
David Payne: That would do it. Yeah.
Lauren Martino: Yeah.
Nalani Devendra: My favorite and my only one known celebrity was Paula Deen.
Lauren Martino: Talk about fried food.
Dana Alsup: Yes.
Nalani Devendra: But I don’t like her food because a lot of fat. I don’t like to eat a lot of fat. But I love to watch her TV show. And – but I took a lot of things from her, how she do it. After that, I enjoy Giada.
Lauren Martino: Giada.
Nalani Devendra: Giada.
Lauren Martino: Giada de Laurentiis, is that how you say it?
Nalani Devendra: Yes. Yeah.
Dana Alsup: I think so.
Lauren Martino: Yeah.
Dana Alsup: I believe so.
Nalani Devendra: Yes. And there’s other one, I don’t remember her name, Barefoot or something.
Lauren Martino: Barefoot Contessa?
Dana Alsup: Barefoot Contessa.
Nalani Devendra: Yes, of course.
David Payne: All right.
Lauren Martino: Oh.
Nalani Devendra: I wish my husband like my food like that way.
Lauren Martino: What do you guys find appealing in a cookbook? What does it have to have to make you pick it up and what does it have to have in it to make you cook from it?
Dana Alsup: Pictures. I need pictures. A cook book without pictures is sad to me. I don’t, don’t like looking at it. What’s it supposed to look like? Will I like what it looks like? I like having pictures on a cookbook. And like ingredients-wise, what it should have or like butter, cheese, cozy – I generally like cozy foods, I’m not a salad person. Grilled things, grilled meats, yeah, a lot of cozy, cozy food as if I’m hibernating all year round but it sounds like –
David Payne: Do you go for the picture first or the recipe?
Dana Alsup: The picture. I’ll go for the picture. And there are plenty of cookbooks that I’ve looked at several times where I think, “I haven’t seen this before,” and then I see the recipe and it’s like, “I have and this just – oh, it’s too complicated. I’m not doing this.” I’m not – I’ve – although I do have a passion for America’s Test Kitchen cookbooks, they are so thorough and they take time to just even read, and so I – if I have the time, I will grab my Test Kitchen cookbook and I will find the recipe, but then I also grab like Mark Bittman’s How To Cook Everything, which is like half the ingredients half the time and a very good result. So I don’t – although I do like things like bread-making, which take hours to make bread but it’s not a lot of hands-on time. It’s – you know, you’re – it’s rising for two hours –
David Payne: It’s the preparation.
Dana Alsup: Yeah. You come back to it for five minutes. It’s rising for another hour. But the – too much time, I’m just not into it. I have stuff to binge watch on Netflix, right? I’m a casual cooker.
Nalani Devendra: Yes. As you mentioned – Dana mentioned, of course, picture. If it doesn’t have picture, I don’t want to touch that cookbook. Every time like you mentioned if I have a moment at the library, I go to the new cook book section, turn it, “Is picture on it? Yes, that is my book, let me grab it.” I go through that. Although, I kind of admit, I like to see it. If it doesn’t have a picture, although how popular, how good, I don’t want to touch it. As I saw the picture, I can image, “Oh, yes, I can do that. Oh, I can eat that. Oh, my husband will like.” Or maybe I can cook for my colleague. If it doesn’t have picture, I don’t know. I –
Lauren Martino: Yes, you can cook for your colleagues.
Nalani Devendra: Oh, yes, I know.
Lauren Martino: Yes, you can cook for your colleague.
Nalani Devendra: Also, the ingredient is really big. Normally, I loved – the ingredient which is, I can easily find, also ingredient which is I can use every day, but I am kind of good with substituting for the ingredients. I don’t hesitate to drop out the ingredients. I can feel if I use this, it’s not – if I drop out this ingredient, it – it’s not going to make a change. I can enjoy it still although I – if I don’t have the ingredient. Also, other thing, the less ingredient, yes, of course.
Lauren Martino: Fewer ingredients?
Nalani Devendra: Fewer ingredients. I know one of my colleague I used to work with him at the Long Branch Library, Fred Akuffo. That is the point I used to start looking less ingredient recipe because every time when I saw him – cookbook or recipes he has, how many ingredient over there, then he count the ingredients including salt, pepper, onion, everything. I say, “Hey, Fred, don’t count salt, pepper, garlic, ginger, every kitchen has it.” He said, “No.”
Lauren Martino: Sure thing you’ve got that on your stove, right? It’s in there.
Nalani Devendra: Yes. And since then, I start looking at the cookbook with the less ingredient. It’s much easier to handle, it is less opportunity to go –
Lauren Martino: To mess it up?
Nalani Devendra: Mess it up, yes. Thank you, Lauren. Then – yes, of course. Also, I have to thinking about whether my husband will like it, so – because that is the only one I have at my home.
Dana Alsup: I agree with that. I also want to know if my husband will like the meal.
Lauren Martino: Because you’re cooking it for somebody else and –
Dana Alsup: Typically, his answer is yes. He’s not a picky eater like myself.
David Payne: So that brings us to a follow-up question. Now, you’re in the mood to cook. You decide to cook something, how do you decide what you’re cooking?
Dana Alsup: Well, a lot of it is dependent upon time. As the – are – my schedule and my husband’s work schedule don’t line up, so sometimes I get an hour to make and eat dinner and that’s it. If he’s going to also eat it, not go to work without food. And other times, a day – a day off or if our schedules line up better, I have much more time to cook. So I can do something that takes more time or I don’t have to prep it, part of it the night before, I can do – I like fast meals like a grilled pizza, those are quick. I don’t have – I can do that real fast, but that’s a lot of how I plan what we’re eating. And I plan everything on Sunday and shop for it. I used to be one of those willy-nilly shoppers. At the end – at the end of the week, I have a whole bunch of stuff that I had to throw away or we didn’t get to or why did I buy this? So I now plan the meals according to our schedules, but it’s also like, you know, if I’m cooking something for my brother, no cheese can be in sight. He does not like cheese. I know. Something’s –
Lauren Martino: That’s strange.
Dana Alsup: We don’t want to get into it.
Lauren Martino: I could understand it for ethical reasons, but –
Dana Alsup: Where I think like – beside – like butter and cheese are my first two food groups. If I’m cooking something for my mom, she’s a fantastic cook and she’s an adventurous cook, she’ll try anything. But I was a stubborn, stubborn picky eater as a child, so I feel that my cooking now for her is like continuously attempting to make up for my horrible eating habits as a child. So it’s like, “Oh, look what I made. I use this ingredient. Aren’t you proud?” And she and my brother are still stunned that I will eat certain things now that I refused to eat as a child.
Lauren Martino: I was totally the same way. And I’m kind of curious, Nalani, were you a picky eater as a kid?
Nalani Devendra: Of course, I was. In Sri Lanka house, some food I don’t want to eat. I mean, I never eat. I don’t know why.
Dana Alsup: I’m the same way. There are still foods I won’t eat, ask my in-laws, they are – they have a list.
Lauren Martino: A list.
Dana Alsup: We have to remember Dana doesn’t like that. I believe there’s something to that, maybe like people that are picky eaters just become cooks like us.
Lauren Martino: Well, there’s a great book by Bee Wilson who’s – the title of it just went out of my head but it’s all about how we learn to eat and part of it is picky eaters, is it a hereditary thing? Is it a choice thing? And it goes into all the different aspects of how we learn to eat as people and as cultures.
Nalani Devendra: Yeah, I do remember as a young kid, I believe – as I do remember, whole one year, I only eat one dish. I mean, rice and that veggie dish. Every day my mom cooked for me, whole year –
Lauren Martino: This was by your choice or hers?
Nalani Devendra: My choice.
Lauren Martino: Okay.
Nalani Devendra: Because I was – I don’t want to eat anything else.
Lauren Martino: Like Bread and Jam for Frances but probably over the year.
Nalani Devendra: And, now, I have realized I’m now excited to try new food, not actually Sri Lankan food – sorry. Any other culture food I like to try. When I go somewhere to eat, I try to go with the food because I don’t know what is that. Sometimes I come hungry because I couldn’t eat that, but it’s still okay, I tried it.
Lauren Martino: So you see something, you got to try it.
Nalani Devendra: Yes. Yes.
Lauren Martino: Sometimes you hate it.
Nalani Devendra: Yes.
Lauren Martino: But – and you go hungry but it doesn’t stop you from trying new things.
Nalani Devendra: No, it’s not, because the reason is I have some scare. While I’m eating, I can just think, “What are the ingredients? Do I have this ingredient? What I can do with this ingredient? Can I make this dish?” Sometimes I come home, try it, sometime I’m – oh, yeah, I have done good job. Maybe I am missing some ingredient but it’s still – at least I can get close to it. One thing I just – first thing I did, I love to go to the Ruby Tuesday.
Lauren Martino: Ruby Tuesday’s? Yeah.
Nalani Devendra: They have potato salad. I love that. Always I want to go to the salad bar because of that.
Lauren Martino: Because of the Ruby Tuesday’s potato salad.
Nalani Devendra: Yes. And then, I start thinking why I cannot make it. Actually, I did make, I add some spice.
Lauren Martino: Sri Lankan potato salad.
Nalani Devendra: Yes, Sri Lankans would be too scared for potato salad, I made it.
Lauren Martino: Awesome.
Nalani Devendra: And, actually, I have made that for my colleague at the Long Branch before I came to the Silver Spring.
Lauren Martino: For Fred?
Nalani Devendra: Yes, for Fred and the Long Branch people, they enjoy.
David Payne: And, now, a brief message about MCPL services and resources.
Female Speaker: What do astronauts eat in space? How does corn become popcorn? What happens to a hamburger inside your stomach? Who can answer all these questions? You and your child can. Our libraries offer fun programs and resources to help your child develop an interest in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, STEM. Come to the library to learn to code, to build, to design, and to open up the world. You can find a link to MCPL STEM resources in this episode’s show notes.
David Payne: Now back to our program. So, an interest – a full disclosure on the show, what’s the most epic failure you’ve ever had working from a cookbook?
Dana Alsup: I made a lemon pasta dish where you order – where you add a quarter cup of lemon juice at the very end. And I served it and my husband said, “Oh, no, it’s good.” And then I had a bite and if you ever need something to peel the outermost layer of the inside of your mouth that’s the dish. It was so acidic. Our mouths peeled. And we threw it away and I threw the recipe away. I don’t even remember what cookbook it was from. We’re very angry at it. And then we order takeout. That was – that was an epic fail and we still talk about it. “Remember that time –” “Yeah, I remember.”
David Payne: Yeah. So, listeners, don’t try that one.
Dana Alsup: Don’t try that one. But beware because I don’t remember the cookbook because we got to add a little bit of lemon juice on that.
Lauren Martino: Yeah, squeeze and put – and I thought – a quarter cup of lemon juice? Oof. Well, I was right.
Dana Alsup: Not more than once I’ve tried the recipe and I’m like, “This has to be wrong.”
Lauren Martino: Yeah. This is just not right.
Dana Alsup: I even – I went back, I looked, I looked, I looked. And afterward, after I made it, I looked, my husband look, “No, it says quarter cup. It says a quarter cup.”
Nalani Devendra: I’m just guessing it might be printing mistake, maybe quarter tablespoon?
Dana Alsup: It’s quite the mistake. Come on, editors, step up.
Nalani Devendra: Of course, I have one recently.
Lauren Martino: I didn’t – I did not taste this but you say other people at our branch did.
Nalani Devendra: Yes. I want to try the zucchini brownie. I found that recipe at one of our cookbook. I don’t remember which one. The recipe is good. Then the first time I made, it turned out like a zucchini chocolate cake –
Lauren Martino: Which is not an epic fail, you know, you can aim for brownies and reach cake and that’s okay.
Nalani Devendra: Then next time I thought, “Okay, I made the mistake, let me correct it.” The next time I made it – oh, my God, I didn’t even want to eat it until I take it to the library. It was a special meeting for something and I brought it. And then as soon as I cut it, I realized, “No, this is not the one. Then I told, “Oh, guys. Don’t eat this one.”
Lauren Martino: What was wrong with it again? Is it just too squishy or is it runny?
Nalani Devendra: Yes, it’s like a really sticky rice.
Lauren Martino: Sticky rice brownies.
David Payne: Yeah.
Nalani Devendra: It is like a sticky, I don’t know what’s wrong. Then I was thinking, “Oh, my God, Silver Spring people got scared for Nalani’s food. They will not anymore trust Nalani’s cooking.” Fortunately, they still –
David Payne: I gather they still have you back.
Nalani Devendra: Yes.
Lauren Martino: Well, you made that eggplant lasagna and all was forgiven, I assure you.
Nalani Devendra: Thank you, Lauren.
Lauren Martino: That was really good.
Nalani Devendra: And you miss my – I believe you miss my recent fried rice, healthy fried rice.
Lauren Martino: No, I had some of that.
Nalani Devendra: Oh.
Lauren Martino: I had some of that. It was very good.
Nalani Devendra: Yes.
Lauren Martino: So you’d say that was your signature dish?
Nalani Devendra: For them, my colleague, which is I called the baby food, yes, my signature dish is my fried rice.
Lauren Martino: Is the fried rice.
Nalani Devendra: Which is – because I use very healthy version with a lot of veggie, less oil, everyone asking how you do that, everyone asking, “Can you send me that recipe? I’m sorry I don’t have a recipe. Whatever I can find, I add, I made it.”
Lauren Martino: You did.
Nalani Devendra: Then I have to tell them. Okay, write it down.
Lauren Martino: So you have to write your own cookbook now.
Nalani Devendra: Yes. And for the Sri Lankan community, my signature dish is – which called in English hoppers, in Sri Lankan word is Aappa. It is long process. It has to – have a lot of experience do you need or whatever, I don’t know. I know a lot of people cannot do that. Everyone, if I’m inviting them, “Nalani, is that going to be hoppers?” I said, “No.” “We don’t want to come.”
Lauren Martino: So, if you know anybody that finds cooking a challenge, what advice do you have for them to help them get over their intimidation, their fear of cooking?
Dana Alsup: I think Nalani and I might bring up the same cookbook. It’s Jessica Seinfeld’s The Can’t Cook Book where she has – she has how-tos throughout it. She tells you – she shows you in pictures, thank goodness, how to chop certain things and how to cut things a certain way. And she even has, before every recipe, “Don’t panic” and a little tip.
Lauren Martino: In big friendly letters?
Dana Alsup: Yes, don’t panic. But it is – it’s simple. And it’s – you will fail at cooking. Cooking is – the kitchen is like a laboratory. You experiment there and you try things, and sometimes they don’t work out because you add a quarter cup of lemon juice. Sometimes they go really in your favor. And the next time you make that it’s not the same thing and you have to figure out why. It is – it’s different every time, and it’s okay to fail. And don’t, like, don’t try to make Thanksgiving as your first meal.
Lauren Martino: Oh, that’s very good advice.
Dana Alsup: Start small, start real small. And it’s okay not to make fancy type meals. The Queen is rarely coming over for dinner, so you don’t need to make her a huge meal. If it’s just you and a family member, you can make something small.
David Payne: Just probably cook breakfast.
Dana Alsup: Yeah, just start small. I love the cover of this book by the way. It’s got all these things burning on the like huge flames leaping out of the pots on the stove. So The Can’t cookbook, just for the cover alone, it’s – yeah.
Lauren Martino: I think it’s worth taking.
Dana Alsup: Yeah, it’s good.
Nalani Devendra: And also, inside of this book, it has given the description and the – with the – with the picture what are the tools you will need.
Dana Alsup: Yes.
Nalani Devendra: And very basic tools because sometime or since we cook, we know some tools but I also don’t know everything. I mean this is really good if someone is going to start cooking also. I will tell if someone is going to start cooking, first step is start – is start boiling water. Second day, add the egg on the boiling water, then you’re going to have – after you cook – boil for 15 minutes, you’re going to have a boiled egg. Hey, yes, you cook. Start – and probably the next day, all right, now, you know how to cook the egg, boiled egg, grab the pasta – box of the pasta and it will tell you instruction how to cook or boil it – boil the pasta. And now you know something.
Lauren Martino: We’ve got carbohydrates and the protein.
Nalani Devendra: Yes. Also, then, go to the grocery store, grab the pasta sauce and then mix pasta – pasta sauce and your pasta, you have a perfect dinner or lunch with the carbohydrate and protein. And, next day, I would tell have some chopped onion, garlic, and if you have some basil or some herbs, and heat up the pan, add some oil on it, let it to – a little bit heat up, add the garlic, ginger, or onion, or any herbs, which is you have for it, sauté it, then add your pasta sauce on it, then you are changing your pasta sauce test a little bit, and add your pasta on it. You have a different test today. And next day if you want, just boil – steam some veggie and add that veggie for that sauté onion, garlic, whatever you are doing and then you have a veggie pasta with the boiled egg.
Lauren Martino: There you go.
Nalani Devendra: There you go. You are cooking.
David Payne: So lots of cooks, there’s your answer. Yeah.
Lauren Martino: Here at Library Matters, we really like to ask everybody, what book are you reading that you’re just dying to gush about?
Dana Alsup: Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz. I’m a murder mystery fan, and Anthony Horowitz wrote Foyle’s War, which is a television show and also Midsummer Murders, which I’ve seen all of them, and they are amazing. So he wrote this book, he’s written several others, but it just – I was on vacation in Italy and I just wanted to stay in and read.
David Payne: Not cook, not cook?
Dana Alsup: Yes. Not cook. I just – I did –
Lauren Martino: Or eat.
Dana Alsup: Or eat. I just – yeah, yeah, yeah, we’re in Italy, but listen, there’s Magpie Murders to read.
Lauren Martino: That is a matter of a good book.
Dana Alsup: I – it was – it was phenomenal. I loved it so much. It was funny. It was not predictable. None of his stuff is. And that was great. And I also just finished reading The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson, and that was – that was a different kind of book for me to read, and it was very enjoyable. It’s a – it’s complex. But if you are the type of person that likes watching like reality shows just for the sake of looking in on someone else’s life, then you’ll like this book.
Lauren Martino: Reality show without the reality.
Dana Alsup: Exactly, yeah.
Lauren Martino: It’s fiction.
Dana Alsup: But you’re really peeping in on someone’s life. Yeah.
Nalani Devendra: I just finished, which is a talk about – which called Future Crimes, Marc Goldman – Goodman.
Lauren Martino: Marc Goodman.
Nalani Devendra: Goodman, sorry. I liked it because it’s kind of prediction.
Lauren Martino: It’s predicting the future?
Nalani Devendra: Future. We think all these modern technology make our life easier. Also – on that way, it make easier for the internet crime – happened internet crime.
Lauren Martino: Wow, that’s timely, isn’t it?
Nalani Devendra: Yes.
Lauren Martino: There’s been a lot of hack.
Nalani Devendra: Like a – we think of – if we have as much door lock, that much convenient. At the same time, if cyber –
David Payne: Cybercrime?
Nalani Devendra: Cybercrime, people who are doing cybercrime, it’s make easier for them to handle our life, take things from our life because we think it is everything is convenient but at the same time, actually – it is convenient plus there’s risk. But I like modern life. I want to buy this smart door lock.
David Payne: Well, Nalani and Dana, thank you very much for joining us on the show today and making us feel very hungry. Don’t forget, 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’d love to know what you think. Thank you for listening to our conversation today. See you next time.
Julie Dina: Welcome to Library Matters. Here are your hosts, Julie Dina and –.
David Payne: David Payne.
Julie Dina: Do you have a child who is reluctant to pick up a book and read? Today we have Barbara Shansby who is a wonderful and knowledgeable children’s librarian, who is here to share with us activities, tips, and advice that will encourage reluctant readers to start turning the pages, perhaps even before this podcast is over. Welcome Barbara, and thanks for being with us today.
Barbara: You’re welcome.
David Payne: Well, Barbara we are talking about reluctant readers but perhaps we should start by understanding what we mean by that term. In terms of the work that you do, can you explain what is or who is a reluctant reader to you?
Barbara: Sure. We usually think about, consider people reluctant readers if they don’t seem enthusiastic about reading. We see this especially with children who come to the library and then they’ll ask for help finding a book for a class or for a book report, and when we give them a book, they just give you this blank stare or worse, and there just seems to be no appeal at all for the books. The kids often don’t say that they don’t like to read, but we can tell from their body language that that’s a big issue, and just as often we’ll get questions from parents who are very honest about that. They will say their children don’t want to read or don’t like it and can we help them get them the books that they do need?
David Payne: You talked about children. Can we count adults as reluctant readers?
Barbara: Absolutely; although to be honest, they are probably a little bit less likely to come to the library. I do think there are plenty of adults in this day and age who don’t read or who are intimidated by it in some way and it’s a challenge.
David Payne: Well, Barbara, let’s talk about you a bit as a reader. Did you like to read as a child?
Barbara: Yes, I did. I was a huge reader as a kid. I probably spent too much time reading. I was sort of the opposite problem. My parents were like, “Why don’t you go outside for a change?” So yeah, I’ve always been a reader and in fact my book club for a while, we were going to call ourselves The Women Who Read Too Much and I love that title.
David Payne: So how did you develop your – or discover your love for reading?
Barbara: Well, that’s a hard thing to answer because I can’t – I don’t remember what got me started. I just remember that I loved to do it. However, I will say that the libraries were probably a big part of it. We lived in Montgomery County and my mother used to take me and my sisters to the library every few weeks and we’d check out our two or three books or whatever and bring them home and then we finished we’d go back and it was just an ongoing thing and really as I said, a b part of my life. I mean I remember many of my books very fondly and then when I came back to work as a children’s librarian, there they were. That was pretty amazing.
Julie Dina: Why do you think some people are reluctant to read, both adults and children?
Barbara: I think there are a lot of reasons why people don’t like to read. There’s a feel of failure with it if they’ve had books that they didn’t like or couldn’t make it through for some reason, then the whole task might be intimidating. Certainly learning disorders play a part in especially again in children. There may have been frustrations that kids or adults faced in previous classes or with previous tasks. Sometimes people may want to read but they are not just finding what appeals to them at that particular point. I also think we can’t discount peer pressure again for the kids, that if their friends aren’t reading why should they pick up a book? And for adults, lack of time is often an issue. Sometimes a person might be willing to read but it’s just not a priority and with so many other things, they are not going to pick up a book.
Julie Dina: So for adults, it’s best to say make more time and then you become willing to read? Would you say that?
Barbara: Well, not necessarily. I mean it would be nice if that’s easy but maybe for some people, that will happen but often it’s a problem of finding the book that appeals to you that’s going to turn you on in some way and make you want to keep reading.
David Payne: Well, Barbara talking about books and appeal, what kind of books do you think have the potential to really sparkle up a reading inn somebody who doesn’t have it already?
Barbara: Well, I think that’s a really, really hard question. It’s very tough to know what’s going to appeal and what’s going to appeal to which reader. So since I’m a children’s librarian, I’m going to talk more about that. We found that there is a big cache with the super popular books that kids will be enthusiastic about reading Dork Diaries or Big Nate because all their friends are reading it. I think we all remember when Harry Porter came out, kids who had never touched a book in their life suddenly had to have all of those books and they actually did read them and that was clearly peer pressure. But in addition to choosing the most popular books, there are other ways to determine that you are meeting the needs of that particular kid and the first thing that I would look at is reading level. It’s really important to have a book that a child can have success with. If you give them something that’s too hard, it can be really discouraging. So often, especially at the lower grades I’ll show a child a book and say, “Does this look too easy, too hard?” But you want to make it easy for them, so that’s the first thing that we are looking at.
Julie Dina: How do you motivate a reluctant reader? What set of questions do you ask them and how do you go about matching the reader with a book?
Barbara: As I said, we started with the grade level and then we are looking at what’s popular. You know you can’t always suggest Captain Underpants or Dork Diaries. We are also looking at the format that the child wants to try a graphic novel or a ‘comic book,’ something that has more illustrations than texts. Sometimes kids and again especially the boys want nonfiction, books about sports or animals or science, something like that. So that’s the way to go. Sometimes we are asking them if they had a book that they read before that they liked, can we follow up on that somehow? So there’s a lot of ways to go at it and hopefully we are going to find something that really just lights up those eyes and get that kid into the idea that this would be a fun thing to do.
Julie Dina: Could you share with our listeners and tell us about some o the MCPL programs that will be actually helpful for reluctant readers and their parents or caregivers?
Barbara: Sure, I’m happy to do that. The first thing that comes to mind is our summer reading program and of course we are pretty far from summer right now and I know at spring you have a podcast on summer reading but that is a great way to encourage reading that kids actually get prizes for doing activities and for reading books and it’s a big encouragement for them to come to the library and look at different kinds of books and complete their books. So that’s just a wonderful program but during the school year, there are other programs. We have Early Literacy Story Times which are important. For the older kids, there is a Read to the Dog program which is really fun. It’s held at several different libraries and the kids come in and an adult has a dog that sits there and the child picks up a book and actually reads the book to the dog and that’s terrific because will give you no judgment. A kid who might be shy in a class or with another adult, may find it a little bit easier to read to a dog. Similarly, we also have a Grand Reader program where kids are able to read to an older adult who again may be a little bit less judgmental and a more comforting presence. Also, there are several book discussion clubs for kids and that’s a wonderfully motivating activity because kids who talk about a book are really learning more about it and it will encourage them to read more and to get more out of it.
And of course there are other programs. At lots of different libraries we have author visits, we have STEM activities, and there are just so many programs. I also want to talk a little bit about resources for reluctant readers and for any readers. One thing that I learned recently is that one new technique is to encourage kids to read large print books. They are finding that that is somehow less intimidating to a child to read than a book where all the print is kind of squished together and every page looks so dense. A large print book has more wide space, the word are a little bit further apart. It’s easier for many children to navigate and to have MCPL. We have a pretty good collection of children’s books in large print and of course there are also lots of adult large print. Another thing that can be used in a similar kind of way is e-books. We have again a huge collection of e-books that can be downloaded and read on a device or a computer. Again, you could make the print larger. Some kids might feel more comfortable just to read on a computer than to pick up a book, so that’s a good thing. And also for younger kids, we have two programs, read-along books and so that’s another resource that can be used. In addition, on our website we have all kinds of subject book lists. We have graded book lists, so if you want to know what your second grader might like you could print out the second grade list. If you want to know books on nature or history or whatever, you could print out that list. There’s a lot of great resources.
Julie Dina: I knew it, we worked for MCPL.
David Payne: Something – we had lots of readers.
Julie Dina: Yeah, we would cover everyone.
David Payne: And now, a brief message about MCPL services and resources.
Female Speaker: Looking for your next favorite book? MCPL can help. Fill out our what do I check out next online form and tell us what you like to read. You can find the link to the service on our homepage. We will email you a list of three to five books that are library chosen just for you, happy reading.
David Payne: Now back to our program. Well, Barbara let’s talk about a few books, in particular let’s say you have a first grader who says they don’t like reading. What would be your automatic go-to book for them? What about for a third grader or a fifth grader or a ninth grader? What are some of the automatic choices that you go to in those situations?
Barbara: Okay, well I’m going to answer with of course more than one because being a librarian, we always like to pile all these books on you. For a first grade reader, if they are below reading level we have a series called Flip a Word and it’s basically phonics. It’s really clear graphics, very simple, basically again phonics, rhyming words and it’s super easy and very appealing to kids. So that would be my first choice for somebody who’s not quite at first grade or struggling with it. If they are a little better reader but just not enthusiastic, I like to suggest funny books so I might say Fly Guy by Ted Arnold or Williams Piggy and Elephant books. I think humor gets kids reading. For the third grader, again the lower level maybe Mercy Watson books by Kate DiCamillo.
Again they are pretty easy, they are funny, they have humor, they have large print, it’s a pretty easy book to read but it’s thick. So that’s nice, that gives them a sense of accomplishment. For somebody more on level, we might do Captain Underpants, Geronimo Stilton, Baby Mouse, those are all good choices I think. For the fifth grader, again if they are below level I might go to some of those third grade suggestions if they are more on level something like Dork dairies, Wimpy Kid, Big Nate, those are all – again, they have the humor that encourages kids. They have lots of illustrations, they are very popular. So usually when a kid sees that, they are pretty willing to give it a try. The ninth grade is a little harder, I thought. If they are below grade level, I might suggest Hatchet by Paul which is a great adventure story but again it’s short, it’s easy text but it moves really quickly, might be one of those fifth grade books that I mentioned. If they are more at grade level, I might suggest Alex Rider or Hunger Games, a lot of excitement, they move quickly. So I think those books have a fairly good chance to encourage a kid to get reading.
Julie Dina: Could you tell me about a story where you were able to actually get a child who was reluctant and had sworn “I’m never ever going to read again” but you turned it around?
David Payne: Okay. So for this we are going to my family members because what’s a good podcast if you are not embarrassing someone in your family? And I’m going to start with my son and then if you want I can give you a story too about my niece. So my story is in middle school – well actually elementary and middle school, one of my sons really did not like reading and he has never become a huge fiction fan. But his summer reading for middle school one year was to read a novel, so I thought that should be pretty easy, how hard can that be? And I kept bringing home books and he kept saying “No, I don’t like it. It looks stupid.” So finally I brought home the book Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson and something about it appealed to him. It’s the story of a girl who witnesses something horrible happening at a party.
The writing is very spare, it’s powerful, it’s not a long book and something in that book just appealed to him and he read it and then later in the year, his school or his class had a contest to design a new book cover for any boo that you had read and he did the cover for Speak and he won the contest. So I thought that was pretty good reinforcement for reading. The other story was also a summer reading story. My niece had to read a huge amount of pages one summer, that was the assignment, read – I don’t know 500 pages or 1000 pages or 200o pages for your summer reading and again I kept handing her all these young adult novels and she kept “No, I just don’t like it. I don’t know, it’s just –” and finally somebody – and I’m not sure I could take credit for it because it could have been one of her friends said – handed her Twilight and that was when that book was hugely popular. And she read the whole thing and that book is like 500 or 600 pages. I just couldn’t believe this girl who wouldn’t open a 200-page novel, but again there was something about it that just appealed to her. It moved quickly, it was fast, it was popular and so she made her 1000 pages by reading all the books in that series. So that’s my story.
Julie Dina: I love them all.
David Payne: So Barbara, for any parent listening who may be concerned that their child doesn’t like to read, what advice would you give them?
Barbara: Okay, I think it’s a really fine line between encouraging your child to read and pushing them too hard and you have to be really careful. So probably the best strategy is to offer books but don’t force them. You want to make sure that there aren’t learning disabilities that are causing the problems but once that’s been dealt with, again offer the books. If there is a specific problem, you want to maybe work with the teachers to get them to encourage reading. But again, have a choice of books, do the nonfiction, do the graphic novels, do the popular things, and make sure that there are some good options for the child.
Julie Dina: Well, still on the same line of what you just said, because you know many parents are concerned for their reluctant readers and some parents actually would prefer their kids to read above their grade level. What would you say to such parents who keep trying to give a child a book that they are not really interested in and it’s below, well the parents consider this book being below the child’s reading level?
Barbara: Well, we do see that a lot with these many arguments between many parents and many children at the library, but again, we are at that fine line. I do think there are kids who need to be pushed to move away from their comfort level and stretch a little, but some kids need to have the positive reinforcement of reading success at the lower level. So sometimes I do say to parents, “Look, it’s the reading that’s important, not so much the format or the level.” And again, this is something if they are finding it hard to get the child up to the next level, this is something more that a teacher might be able to do more effectively. At the library, we really want to make sure the child is enjoying and that it’s not becoming a chore or an effort. So if a kid is happy reading, you don’t want to mess with that too much.
Julie Dina: So we want a joyful child?
David Payne: That would help?
Julie Dina: Now we’ve talked a lot with regards to children but there are some adults who would mention and say, “I really don’t have time to read this long book.” Do you have any solutions as to what would be good for them?
Barbara: Yes. I think that’s absolutely a valid thing. Sometimes people just don’t want to commit to a huge book. In my old age I’m finding that to be more the case for myself. I’m just like, “Oh no, I have many pages.”
Julie Dina: So what would you recommend for yourself?
Barbara: A shorter book. There are lots of very good books that are 300 or 400 pages or less, fiction, nonfiction, whatever. So you don’t have to go the huge novel route but also there are short stories, there are novels or – I’m sorry, short stories or novellas, there are graphic novels, magazine articles, again the nonfiction is always an option. If you have a nonfiction book sometimes you don’t have to read the whole thing, you kind of skip around a little bit or leave out the chapters that you are not interested in. Another option which actually we didn’t talk about for kids but many people enjoy listening to a book, so that’s another way to deal with the lack of time and possibly the lack of commitment. So if you are on a long trip it doesn’t really matter how long your book is, you just listen for as long as it goes. Also I had another idea and that is that adults can also read young adult books or children’s novels. There are a lot of books that are so well written and have interesting themes and characters, but it’s usually a pretty quick read and that’s a great option.
Julie Dina: Well, finally before we let you go, it’s our tradition here o Library Matters to ask our guests to tell us about a book they have enjoyed reading recently. Could you share that with us?
Barbara: Okay. So I’m going to tell you about a book that I just finished a week or two ago and following my own advice for an easy read, it was young adult, nonfiction. The book is called Survivors Club and the author is Michael Bornstein. And this was an amazing story of a young Jewish boy from Poland who was sent to a concentration camp with his family. At the time he was only four years old, but he managed to survive and even more surprising, almost everybody in his extended family survived. Some survived by hiding, some survived by escaping, some seemed to survive just by luck. So even though it was a sad story and it was pretty awful to read about the violence and the trauma that he went through, I felt like it was so inspiring to learn about where everybody did survive and how he was reunited with his family.
Julie Dina: It sounds wonderful. Well, once again, thank you so much Barbara for joining us for this podcast episode.
David Payne: And being an inspiration to the many young children and the parents who are looking to get that boost into reading. Thank you for sharing your wisdom with us.
Julie Dina: You are very welcome.
David Payne: Don’t forget, 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 our conversation today, see you next time on Library Matters.
Lauren Martino: Welcome to Library Matters, I am your host Lauren Martino.
Julie Dina: And I am Julie Dina.
Lauren Martino: Turn on the lights, make sure your cell phone has reception, lock the door to the basement and whatever you do, don’t say, "I'll be right back". We have the librarians Heather Wright from Olney Library and Tom Palmer from Silver Spring Library with us today and we are about to explore the world of horror fiction and horror movies, what they are, what they do to us and why we keep coming back for more, Tom and Heather, welcome to the show.
Heather Wright: Thank you.
Tom Palmer: Thank you for having me.
Julie Dina: So let's begin the show, with getting a clear understanding or the definition of a horror book or film.
Heather Wright: It's literature that reminds us that the world is not safe and that we need to have a healthy caution at all times.
Tom Palmer: I like that.
Heather Wright: Such as now.
Lauren Martino: It sounds like — yes, is that from Neil Gaiman?
Heather Wright: Possibly.
Lauren Martino: Yeah it sounds like something he'd say. So we called you in here today, I know Tom — I was sitting next to Tom on the desk and asked him if he would do this with us and he said yes, but said he was going through a horror kick recently and had also taken a class in horror fiction in college.
Heather Wright: Cool.
Lauren Martino: What draws you to — why now, what's fueling this horror kick of yours?
Tom Palmer: So I recently started reading Stephen King and I am huge fantasy nerd and I read his dark tower series which is kind of like a mash up of horror and fantasy.
Lauren Martino: Everything he does is a mash up or horror, like whatever else he is writing about, yes.
Tom Palmer: I would say that is about right, and so then I went on, I am reading "It" right now by Stephen King, I have read the classics, Shelley and Dracula, but I think what I like about it is it explores themes that are sort of universal to people but are maybe taboo in other genres, whether it's something like revenge, repressed memories or just fear in general. It might be part of a book in another genre, but in horror it's really sort of the focus and you can sort of dig deep into those and sort of — it almost makes you feel introspective about things you don’t normally think about, who wants to think about when they are afraid? But it can be fun in the same way people like being scared in movies and what not.
Heather Wright: I agree, I think one of the things I like the most about horror and I don’t read a lot of horror but —
Tom Palmer: I don’t either.
Heather Wright: But I started reading Stephen King when he first came out with Carrie and was hooked ever since but what I like about a good horror novel is not that it scares me, that sort of is the secondary thing but that if it makes me think and ponder about something, that is a little bit deeper, and they often do, like what is the meaning of life or what's out there, that could be out there that we don’t think about and is there something evil and inhuman in nature that sometimes comes out under certain circumstances, that's the kind of thing I like.
Lauren Martino: Or even what is precious that we might be losing if an evil clown gets set loose on the world.
Julie Dina: So with that being said, what would you then say makes a good horror story?
Heather Wright: Well, a couple of things, first of all it needs to have that "What if?" And I will put that in quotation marks, "What if" scenario. What if an evil clown reached out of the sewer and grabbed children, what if a vampire came to your town, what if something that ordinarily wouldn’t happen combined with two other things. I think you need the feeling of suspense as you are reading it, what is going to happen next, it's got to be a real page turner and an element of surprise, there has to be something that makes you think, whoa that just happened, I didn't see that coming, those three things I believe are necessary.
Tom Palmer: And I completely agree, the what if, the fear of the unknown is a huge aspect of horror movies and books but for me first and foremost any book has to be readable, it has to have a good flow, I have to sort of be drawn in and then I've read books before where the what if, the hook was interesting but I just sort of couldn’t get into the story and I think people like Stephen King do a good job of making it readable and sort of universal and relatable and then of course you’ve got to have a little bit of fear and that introspective feeling that you were talking about. But really it's the basic, is like any other genre, just a good book with horror elements added in I think.
Julie Dina: I've always wondered why do people want to be scared though, why?
Heather Wright: Well not everybody does want to be scared but there are interesting theories about those that do want to be scared, why they want to be scared and I will tell you what research says and then I will tell you my theory my — armchair psychologist theory — to see if Tom you agree with me.
Julie Dina: Listen up.
Heather Wright: Okay so way back in our ancestor days, the days of the cavemen they lived in constant fear that they were going to be eaten by a wild animal and so —
Lauren Martino: A justifiable fear.
Heather Wright: Yes. That was a justifiable fear and so ingrained in each human being was this fighter flight aspect of life, it was the surge of adrenaline that they immediately had to decide do I run away and escape this animal who is going to eat me or do I fight this animal and eat this animal? So that went on for a few millennia and then came civilization and things calmed down a little bit and there were fewer wild animals out there that were going to eat us but we still have that fight or flight instinct physically and we still need that rush of adrenaline. So at that point people started telling each other stories around a camp fire, stories with evil spirits that were going to take them off somewhere and that was sort of the beginning of the horror genre to sort of satisfy that the need for adrenaline, and now I am going to add my armchair psychologist aspect of it. In modern times, there is a ton of stuff out there that could scare the hell out of you that really is happening. We have weather phenomena, we have terrorist threats, we have crazy shooters if you start thinking about this you could really go crazy with fear. So we don’t want to think about this, so what our subconscious does is create fear out things that probably are not going to happen, things like clowns reaching up out of the sewer, things like vampires in our bedrooms and if we can be scared of that for a little while and see that we can vanquish that, then our need for adrenaline rushes is satisfied, I rest my case.
Tom Palmer: Well way to leave nothing for me to say —
Heather Wright: Oh I am sorry.
Tom Palmer: But I completely agree with you, I think the sort of primal reason is people like that shock to the system endorphins feel good, not everyone likes that shock but it's that if you are going through life and things are dull, dreary, it can feel good to sort of be jolted and think and reexamine life. But I would agree it can help to sort of experience fear in a way that you know is probably not going to happen. For instance, like I don’t really like realistic horror, I am not a big fan of serial killer stuff because that happens and it's not something I want to think about but I think we are safe from demonic clowns so that is something I don’t mind reading about… hopefully.
Lauren Martino: Yeah hopefully, what's that under the table?
Tom Palmer: Right, but yeah basically I think it boils down to that fighter flight and that feeling alive I think.
Julie Dina: So some would go bungee jumping and some would just go for a horror book.
Heather Wright: Exactly.
Tom Palmer: I think that is exactly right.
Lauren Martino: Have either of you been unable to finish a book because it was too scary, too gruesome, too troubling?
Tom Palmer: This actually happened to me for the first time recently.
Lauren Martino: First time?
Tom Palmer: If you would have asked me three months ago, I would have said no, I don’t know what that says about modern media and the way I grew up but I'm pretty desensitized to like, just to movies, video games, violence but I actually read American Psycho recently by Bret Easton Ellis and there was a part in the book involving a rat, if you have read it before you will know what I am talking about.
Heather Wright: No.
Tom Palmer: It is just awful and it was sort of — it seemed to me like violence for violence sake and I sort of felt like, why am I reading this, I know this isn’t fun and so I think that is the one and only time that a book has been a little too much for me, I never finished it.
Heather Wright: I have one that I did finish but I kind of didn’t want and this was a recent Stephen King book called Revival, this came out a few years ago and it’s about a preacher who stops being a preacher because his family is killed in a horrible accident and he doesn’t believe in God anymore so he decides not to be a preacher but he develops this ability to cure people, did you read Revival?
Tom Palmer: I haven’t, I've heard, but I have read about it though.
Heather Wright: Okay and he uses a form of electricity, he calls it special electricity that somehow can cure people, but after they are cured, they have seizures where they see visions of a strange landscape that can't be explained. So to make a very long story short, he uses this electricity and hooks it up to someone who is dying, with the theory being that as they die, he can get a vision through this electricity of what they are seeing and what they are going through. So it happens and it's horrible and it's just horrible, it's the closest thing to hell that I can imagine, that immediately you are led away by huge monsters that look like ants and you are beaten and tortured for the rest of your existence and I kind of — I didn’t want to finish but I had to finish and I stayed away from Stephen King for a while after that.
Julie Dina: Where would you say he gets his inspiration from?
Heather Wright: Stephen King has said that he was inspired in his writing by a fellow named Richard Matheson who wrote one of the first zombie stories which is called "I Am Legend" which some of you may have heard of and some other modern horror writers have also said Peter Straub I believe and Dean Koontz have also been influenced by this guy who writes a lot of psychological suspense into his horror.
Lauren Martino: What is the point of zombies if they are not suspenseful? Actually, I grew up in Peachtree City which is not far away from Senoia Georgia, which is where The Walking Dead is filmed now, so my whole town is pretty much like overrun with zombies and zombie actors and like it's kind of strange.
Heather Wright: Yeah that would be a great vacation site, do they market that it's there?
Lauren Martino: Oh they do, oh my goodness, like there is like a little downtown with the cute little shops that have zombie soap and zombie candles and I am not making this up.
Heather Wright: Wow, it could have an amusement park, zombie rides.
Julie Dina: That might be next.
Lauren Martino: I am sure it's coming.
Heather Wright: I'd like to go.
Lauren Martino: It's like I never thought this would happen in my hometown. The book that I read that I could not finish — and I don’t know if this quite counts because it is a true story but there is a graphic novel called My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf.
Tom Palmer: Okay that doesn’t sound good already.
Lauren Martino: Yes, no it was written by a friend of Jeffery Dahmer's from high school and exploring like why — what may have gone wrong or you know what happened in high school that may have — and you know I was pregnant at the time so I was already queasy all the time and you know there is something about the drawing of it that it's just — the drawing just looks gross, even if it's not portraying anything gross like Ren and Stimpy or you know like —
Tom Palmer: Oh boy.
Lauren Martino: Or you know, Beavis and Butthead, there is something with —
Julie Dina: Beavis and Butthead —
Lauren Martino: You know, you just look at the drawing and it just kind of grosses you out and the whole book is like that even when nothing gross is happening and of course gross stuff does happen, so yeah that — so yeah I just was like I am feeling too queasy, I can't do this.
Julie Dina: And now, a brief message about MCPL resources and services
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Julie Dina: Now back to our program.
Lauren Martino: We talk about why people are into this, why some people just can't stop being scared and I've known kids that inexplicably like it was like all he wants to read is horror books, should I be giving them all these horror books? What do you think about that? I mean because really young kids sometimes, they've got this craving and how much —
Heather Wright: Well I think if a kid has a craving for any kind of book, being a children's librarian, you give them that kind of book.
Lauren Martino: Yes.
Heather Wright: Yeah I mean with some exceptions probably but children have the same feelings that adults have about being afraid, even stronger, I think if a child faces something frightening in a book or a movie that has conquered them, you have to make sure that the good does conquer for children and it often does in a children's book then that makes the child feel a sense of power that good does conquer evil and that I think a child gets a feeling of self-confidence from this so I would not steer a child away if they are interested but I also wouldn’t force a child to read horror.
Lauren Martino: Do you think it makes a difference if it's a movie or a book? Like would you feel the same way about exposing your child to a horror movie versus it in writing?
Tom Palmer: I think a movie is another level these days, some of the horror movies that are made, I mean, now but going back to the 70s are just — no I would not like my child seeing that. I think a book, there is a little more leeway but I tend to — other genres I might let them read a bit of an older book like a science fiction something, drama but horror can have some really disturbing aspects to it and I think it's very much an adult thing. I mean there can be their Coraline horror-ish fiction and —
Lauren Martino: And that is scary enough.
Tom Palmer: And it is scary.
Lauren Martino: Oh my gosh, the audio book, the singing rats, well about the bones —
Tom Palmer: So I think children are interested because anytime you say don’t read this and don’t look at this, of course they are going to say why I want to look at that? But I have vivid memories of seeing movies as a child and thinking I shouldn’t be watching this, I'm going to get scared but you can't help it and you want to see what the big deal is and of course I was frightened later and so maybe I would try to avoid that with my own child, I am sure he will see it, you know but.
Heather Wright: Well part of the problem is that movies don’t necessarily end happy.
Tom Palmer: Oh no, very rarely.
Heather Wright: Definitely not, I will tell you about a movie that my parents took me to, this may have been the first movie that I ever saw in a movie theater, I was five years old and they couldn’t get a babysitter so the first movie I ever saw was, Psycho.
Lauren Martino: Oh my goodness.
Heather Wright: Oh my goodness is right, so I still — I remember this day, I don’t remember much from when I was five but I remember turning around and crying and not facing the screen at the end, not the shower scene, I didn’t care what was going on and a five year old wouldn’t care about that but at the very end when the rocking chair turns around and you see sitting in this rocking chair, this rotting corpse of an old woman, still years afterwards, every window, I would see this face in the window, it was really hard for me to get to sleep and I can still picture it vividly so my parents were good parents except for that day.
Julie Dina: So have you stayed away from windows now?
Heather Wright: That’s hard if you are actually. And plus I have seen Psycho a few more times.
Julie Dina: Oh okay, you’ve conquered.
Heather Wright: I have toughened up.
Julie Dina: Yes, you've conquered your fear.
Lauren Martino: But that didn’t keep you away from showers though I think that would have really taught your parents a lesson.
Heather Wright: That is true, “Well honey Heather is really smelling bad today, it's your fault.”
Julie Dina: It’s funny you brought that up because I was going to ask you, what would you consider the scariest movie, book or film that you have ever seen or story?
Heather Wright: Well I gave this one some thought and I am not going to say Psycho, because — I am going to say it's the book and the movie, both scared me, see if you agree with me, The Exorcist.
Julie Dina: Oh yeah I will never forget that one.
Heather Wright: Wow, well in the movie, the imagery I thought was so realistic at the time, probably now, people would laugh at that but what really scared me about The Exorcist, was then later I did some research being a librarian you know, a future librarian at the time and this kind of thing really happens. The Exorcist was based on a true story in Prince George's County.
Tom Palmer: Yeah absolutely.
Lauren Martino: Where in Prince George's County?
Julie Dina: What?
Heather Wright: I forget but you can look it up and I mean that’s just one example, these things happen all the time, so that is what scares me when I think whoa, this could happen to me anytime, but it hasn’t. How about you Tom?
Tom Palmer: Well I will state up front that I'm a pretty big wimp when it comes to movies, I actually don’t love horror movies and my wife is even a bigger wimp so we are not a big horror movie family. I actually think one of the scariest books I have read is Frankenstein and it's just so different from the movie — the book. So you sort of have in the movie this big stupid monster and then in the book, he is very much intelligent and has emotions and struggles with those and I don’t know if it scared me but I remember feeling sort of, my God I can't imagine knowing who created you and then immediately they say you are disgusting and I hate you and go away and then he grapples with those feelings and it's actually a very heartbreaking book but I was amazed at how scary it was for a book that was written a long time ago and the fact that Mary Shelley was 19 years old or something when she wrote that, it's just unbelievable to me.
Lauren Martino: I bet there's 19 year olds out there that —
Tom Palmer: Yeah but I —
Lauren Martino: Given the right training, yes.
Tom Palmer: Yeah so that’s true.
Julie Dina: So would you then say that the horror genre has developed or changed over time?
Heather Wright: Yeah. Well like I think I said before, horror stems back to when people started telling each other stories around camp fires, there has always been an element of horror. I think horror fiction as we know it now probably started to develop during — when Shelley wrote Frankenstein and this was the 19th century and a lot of classic horror books came out then, Dracula and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and the stories of Edgar Allan Poe and this used to scare people which is interesting because things were written very differently then, there weren’t things where people jump out behind things and scare people, it was much more atmospheric and using your imagination. A lot wordier as time has gone on, things have changed I think, modern horror. People say really Stephen King was one of the first who created the kind of horror fiction that we have now where besides just supernatural things, he uses things that scare us in modern society, things like call phones that can — it can cause a plague if anyone has read Cell.
Tom Palmer: Viruses yeah.
Lauren Martino: Yes.
Heather Wright: Okay or just evil lurking in the most unlikely places and now actually in modern horror things have changed even more, just in the last couple of year I think there's — since the teen series Twilight by Stephenie Meyer that came out, it was kind of the only thing like it at the time but there's just been a glut of things for teens and then spreading down to children and for adults on vampires and werewolves and zombies and it's just kind of everywhere you look now.
Tom Palmer: Yeah I would agree with everything you are saying, I think horror film has sort of — I think there's still good horror films but a lot of it is, in my opinion just sort of upping the antique with the violence and with the —
Lauren Martino: You have to have somewhere to go.
Tom Palmer: Yes and just sort of I would say shock tactics and that is one of the reasons I am not a huge fan, there is not a lot of subtlety these days but fiction, Heather said it pretty well, it's just sort of tamed by today's standards but I think authors can be more creative now with what they write. I think back then it was maybe ghosts or someone, a killer or something and now it can be anything, Stephen King uses what he calls the Macro verse, that’s creatures from other universes and I think that would have been maybe unpublishable back in the 20s or something like that. So I think —
Lauren Martino: Those imaginations hadn’t quite stretched that far.
Tom Palmer: Exactly but —
Heather Wright: Isn't the clown from It from that universe?
Tom Palmer: He is; he is not from our universe right.
Heather Wright: Well thank goodness for that.
Tom Palmer: Yeah.
Julie Dina: Do you think some of this is expanding into TV shows too these days?
Lauren Martino: You know I have seen more and more of — you know I sat through Stranger Things and it was —
Heather Wright: Loved it.
Lauren Martino: It was hard, oh my gosh but I couldn’t stop, like I just couldn’t stop and I feel like we are seeing more and more of that too where you get the chance to really develop.
Heather Wright: Yeah I've been trying, I love horror TV, I grew up with The Twilight Zone and absolutely loved it and I have been trying to find something that rivets me the way that — I tried stranger things absolutely, I am a fan of that "Bates Motel", see that is a Psycho thing. The Bates Motel series which is the origins or Norman Bates and how he got be the way he is and his relationship with his mother, it's all very creepy. I've been trying to watch American Horror Story, I don’t know if anyone has watched that, the first two seasons were fantastic, it's gotten very strange with the addition of Lady Gaga which is in itself somewhat horrific.
Lauren Martino: That is strange yeah.
Heather Wright: I know but I keep trying and then I used to watch The X-Files and there's so much of it out there now, I think it goes along with the literature, there is just — there seems to be a glut of it now.
Tom Palmer: Have you tried Penny Dreadful?
Heather Wright: No but I have heard about it, is that good?
Tom Palmer: I can't recommend it enough, it's got sort of a lot of the classic characters from horror, it's got Victor Frankenstein, Dracula but sort of a different take on — it's only three seasons but so good, you should definitely try it.
Heather Wright: Oh I will, I will tonight, how about Black Mirror, it's on Netflix, it's sort of… it's horror from a very modern perspective taking into account the way technology is going and then they take the "What if technology turns in this direction, kind of in a twisted way" how would that affect what our lives are like? It's fantastic.
Julie Dina: Since a lot of these scary movies or books or stories have tricks in them — would you say or could you tell us of a book that you know is actually very scary but isn’t marketed as a horror book?
Tom Palmer: It's hard because the book I have in mind, it's not that of a stretch but it's The Road by Cormac McCarthy and it's sort of in a post apocalyptic book so it's not a huge stretch but it's not marketed necessarily as a horror book but it's very intense in the sense of, should some sort of environmental disaster happen and society broke down, you know some of the things that is in the book, you can see humans doing and it's very disturbing, because it's again that idea of this could happen, humans can behave this way and it's very scary so that would be mine.
Heather Wright: And I am going to say a book called Geek Love, G-E-E-K.
Julie Dina: I've seen that book.
Heather Wright: By Katherine Dunn.
Lauren Martino: Is it — please tell me more, why is this a scary book?
Heather Wright: Okay it's not marketed as horror but it's so horrible, oh my God, it's about a couple who run a carnival and they want their carnival to be more popular, so you are not going to believe — so what they do is the woman takes drugs and chemicals into her system in order when she is pregnant to create fetuses that have abnormalities on purpose so that these will be oddities in their carnival and so they've got Siamese twins, they've got a son who has no arms and legs and he's got flippers instead and their whole family is made up of — well I don’t want to say the word but the book says of geeks. So it is about this carnival that they have and the son who doesn’t have arms or legs and has flippers is also very handsome and women fall in love with him when they see him floating around in his tank and so he starts a cult and in order to be a part of the cult and come to the meetings and get to hang out with him you have to cut off a body part so that you are like him and the more body parts that you cut off, the higher in this cult you get to rise. Now we were down to hardly any copies in the Montgomery County library system, maybe this is a good thing, but I just read an email about new books that they are buying and that is one of them.
Tom Palmer: Oh my.
Lauren Martino: Oh Gosh.
Heather Wright: So other people must like this book, well not like — it isn’t the word, but must read this book other than myself.
Lauren Martino: I can't let go of Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, like I am totally slaughtering his name. He just won the Nobel Prize right, Kazuo Ishiguro which is basically — and spoiler alert, here is your chance to stuff up your ears because as you go further in the book, like they never say it outright but you keep being like oh my gosh, that's what this book is about but they just keep hinting at it until the very end. But yeah we are living in this world where people are cloned pretty much for the purpose of donating their organs and like right around maybe 30 or so, they complete or something to that effect where it's like you know, congratulations, you are done, and they take everything and that is the end of you and it's just — it's the most horrific thing and I mean the whole book is about trying to find humanity and meaning, leaving like this. So I mean it's much more than just the disturbing part of it but it's just like I'm still to this day haunted by some of the images and what happens in this book, I just can't let it go.
Julie Dina: So there you are at the Information Desk and someone approaches and your heart starts racing and your palms grow sweaty because it is somebody from a book or movie you've read recently, it's the last person you wanted to see, who is it and what do they ask for?
Tom Palmer: That's a tough one; I'll give it some thought, possibly Hannibal Lecter asking for a copy of how to cook everything, maybe a wine guide.
Lauren Martino: A wine guide.
Tom Palmer: That is what I came up with.
Heather Wright: Pennywise the Clown from It he is a really very gross clown who kills little children and the more frightened they are the better they taste and he would come up to the service desk and he would say to me where is the children's room? I don’t know, we don’t have one.
Lauren Martino: So do you have anything you'd recommend for somebody looking for some of these items and interested in learning more, where should they go on our website or among our resources to find out more?
Tom Palmer: In terms of resources we always have the Reader's Café online and What Do I Check Out Next which is a great function on our main webpage so that has plenty of good recommendations for horror books.
Lauren Martino: And you are one of the recommenders for that aren’t you Heather?
Heather Wright: Yeah, yes and I have recommended horror books to people, not a lot.
Julie Dina: But some.
Heather Wright: But some, yes. What Do I Check Out Next is a service provided by Montgomery County librarians where you email in a question, what type of books you are interested in and within three to five days, one of our librarians who do this will email you back with a list of three to five books and a little description of each and why we think that book would be interesting to you.
Julie Dina: And finally it's our tradition here on Library Matters to ask our guests, to see what they have enjoyed reading recently would you guys share with us what books you have actually enjoyed reading recently?
Heather Wright: Well the book I am reading now and almost done, I am going to finish it tonight, is called The Motion of Puppets and this is kind of horror, it's by Keith Donohue, who is actually a local writer, I think he lives in Bethesda. This is about a couple who are recently married and she works for a circus and one day on her way home from the circus to her apartment she goes into a toy store, that she has always admired the toys in the toy store especially the puppets in the window. Let's see where this is going and she goes in at night after hours and for some reason the door is open and the proprietor of the toy shop assaults her and turns her into a puppet. Takes out her organs, stuffs her with stuffing and she becomes one of the puppets that live in the toy store. Now for some reason the puppets in the toy store are also alive, they can come alive at night and talk to each other. So the story then alternates between her life as a puppet and her husband who doesn’t know what happened to her and he is trying to find her and one day he sees on TV a parade of puppets that this toy store has done and he sees a puppet that looks just like his wife. So he's got a clue now how to find her and where I am now is he's just found the shop where she is but he hasn’t found her yet so we'll found out what happens when I get home tonight.
Lauren Martino: That sounds a lot like —
Tom Palmer: That sounds very exciting.
Lauren Martino: It sounds like Splendors and Glooms by —
Heather Wright: Yes which I have also read, yes.
Lauren Martino: I love that park, that’s the —
Heather Wright: Yes that's the same theme but with a child — a little girl turned into a puppet yeah which is a very spooky creepy thing really when you think about it.
Lauren Martino: Yeah.
Heather Wright: So don’t think about it.
Julie Dina: Tom?
Tom Palmer: Well my recommendation and the book I just finished was It for the reasons I said before. Before that I read American Gods by Neil Gaiman, not really horror-ish but fantasy. It is about — the concept is the old gods that were worshiped in ancient times Thor and all these different ones trying to stay relevant in today's world where people either don’t believe in God or tend to believe in a God and this is the whole pantheon of old gods trying to find followers because that's where their powers comes from basically. So it is very interesting and it is also a TV show now which is good.
Heather Wright: Everything is turning into a TV show.
Julie Dina: Yes.
Lauren Martino: They've got to come up with their ideas somehow.
Julie Dina: Well thanks Heather and Tom for joining us on this episode of library matters, we appreciate all the wonderful scary information you’ve given us, don’t turn off the light. Let's keep the conversation going by following us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast on new Apple podcast app, Stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts. Also please review and rate us on Apple podcasts, we'd love to know what you think, thank you for listening to our conversation today and see you next time.