Tag Archives: RA in a Half Day

Chick Lit with Heidi Schiller

Here is Heidi Schiller from North Vancouver City Library discussing Chick Lit at RA in a Half Day on Oct. 30th, followed by her Chick Lit takeaways:

Speed Dating Through the Genres – Chick Lit

Description of Genre:

Chick lit is genre fiction that addresses issues of modern womanhood, often humorously and lightheartedly. Although it sometimes includes romantic elements, chick lit is generally not considered a direct subcategory of the romance genre because the heroine’s relationship with her family or friends is often just as important as her romantic relationships. Most chick lit novels are set in the contemporary world, in a big city, and include details about fashion and trendy restaurants/bars/hotspots.

The term gained traction in the 90s and was originally used by a New Yorker reporter to describe the trend of “girlishness” evident in the writing of female newspaper columnists, and has since been adopted by the publishing industry. Some argue the term is now dead, despite there still being a large audience for the genre. Publishers now use the term “women’s commercial fiction” or “contemporary romance”.

Covers are highly identifiable with bright colors and a cartoonish feminine pop art sensibility.

Important titles and authors:

Sex and the City (1996) by Candace Bushnell, The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing (1998) by Melissa Bank, Bridget Jones’s Diary (1999) by Helen Fielding, The Nanny Diaries (2002) by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus, The Devil Wears Prada (2003) by Lauren Weisenberger, Sophie Kinsella’s Shopoholic series, Marian Keys, Jane Green, Jennifer Weiner, Emily Giffin, Plum Sykes

More Recent Titles: Bond Girl by Erin Duffy, Size 12 and Ready to Rock by Meg Cabot, Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham (2013), The List by Karin Tanabe (2013),

Helpful resources (print & online):

  • Novelist: Search for Chick Lit and click on “Lists and Articles.”
  • Popular Chick Lit booklist on Goodreads
  • Chicklitbooks.com: blog with reviews
  • Chicklitclub.com: blog with news and reviews

-Heidi Schiller

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Noir Fiction with Marcus Mendes

Vancouver Public Library’s Marcus Mendes covered the basics of Noir Fiction as part of our Speed Dating Through the Genres presentation at RA in a Half Day on Oct. 30th. Here is his presentation, followed by some important take-away points!

Boiled to Black

Who done it?  It wasn’t Colonel Mustard in the conservatory with the candlestick; it was Deputy Sheriff Lou Ford in the bedroom, with his fists. Like Deputy Ford, early Noir was American. Europe soon followed, at first in poor imitation, but now has some of the best noir authors.

Noir tales aren’t polite, nor do they take place in polite society.  The proceedings are dire, strewn with violence and conclude with severe loss.

There are a variety of definitions of the genre.  Here are some of my own:  Noir is closely aligned in spirit with the Greek Tragedies. The extant tragedies deal exclusively with the causes of, war itself, and aftermath. The golden age of Noir (late 1930’s – 1960) -and film noir- continues the exploration of people caught in circumstances beyond their control.

The best high-octane noir should have episodic drive, a tone of fatalistic ruination, and unaffected narrative. It is not unusual to have an unreliable narrator.

The best of the genre are hardboiled and drenched with existential unease.  If existential stress is not present, it is simply hardboiled, also quaintly called Thuglit. For example, all of Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer series are hardboiled, but not all are noir.

Noir fiction includes a number of sub-genres such as Comedy: Bowker, David / How To Be Bad; Westerns: deWitt, Patrick / The Sisters Brothers, and historical: Philip Kerr’s Bernie Gunther series

                                                           Some characteristics:

Cigarettes

Out of the Past: “Cigarette”? reply, “Smoking”. In Noir’s golden age everybody smokes. Cigarette’s convey language and mood.  When alone, a person stares at the ceiling and smokes.

In Neo-Noir (post 1970’s) cigarettes are rare.

Booze

Everybody drinks. In neo noir this may be combined usually with tablets of pain-killers.

Femme Fatale

Not always present or fatal.

The Patsy or Fall-Guy

Either the protagonist or secondary character/s is always destined for downfall.

The Investigator

There is usually someone investigating something- typically death by trauma.

The Police

Because of ‘The Investigator’ factor, the police usually make an appearance, often in a starring role.

The Knockout

Whether Classic or Neo, knockouts supplement murder.

Snappy Dialogue

More usual in Classic Noir, but often still found in Neo-noir.

–Marcus Mendes

Video: Seattle’s David Wright at RA in a Half Day

Did you miss David Wright at our RA in a Half Day Workshop on Oct. 30th? No worries! You can watch the Seattle Public Library librarian’s inspiring keynote on the power of form-based and digital readers’ advisory right here on the What Are You Reading Blog!

This video would make a great training tool, as well as provide persuasive arguments to administration for why form-based and Facebook-based RA is so great. Please stay tuned for more videos from RA in a Half Day, which we’ll post over the next few weeks.

Max Wyman on Libraries and Reading for Pleasure

RA in a Half Day 2013 finished with a rich tale of Max Wyman’s addiction to reading and the ways our culture can support this kind of addiction. As closing keynote, Max Wyman, Canadian arts critic and author of The Black Tulip Conundrum, eloquently described his life as a “readoholic”; “I don’t drink. I don’t do drugs. I don’t have to. Language is enough. The intoxication of language is the best kind of state.”

By taking us through his own life from very early childhood on, Max spoke to how reading could infiltrate a life and develop life views that impacted everything he did and wrote himself. He realized early he didn’t just want to be a doer of reading, he wanted to become a peddler, by producing works himself from as early as age nine. Now he is an enabler of readers, contributing to developing other people’s reading habits both in his contributions to the Vancouver Sun and as a board member on the Canada Council for the Arts.

Max also spoke of how “reading begets reading” so that tossing your hands up and proclaiming some types of reading as less valuable is counter productive. To encourage reading, consider it in all forms and consider how it is changing along with technology. Books, he declares, will not disappear, but youth now do not simply read a text left to right along a page. Instead they scan. We need to be flexible in how we use technologies, including books, to encourage reading in all forms. All of these are tool for the ideas we need to inform the heart because, “We live in a thrilling and terrifying world and need every tool we can get to deal with it.”

Challenging RA Questions

This year RA in a Half Day responded to some of the takeaways from last year’s event and included more interactive components and RA interview role playing. Tara Matsuzaki served as the master of ceremonies for a scintillating series of challenging RA questions presented as mock interviews. Questions were presented to the audience and every table was asked to come up with recommendations and ideas for how to solve their reading needs. Imagine a room of 70 talented librarians, MLIS candidates and library allies leaning in and sharing their collective skills and knowledge on readers’ advisory. It was a flood of ideas!

War Films for Dad – Heidi Schiller, North Vancouver City Library

Heidi Schiller acted the part of a patron looking for war films, especially from WWII, for a father who has already seen all the classics. The audience really picked up on looking outside of film towards TV series like Band of Brothers and Foyle’s War. The question also came up as to whether or not he would like a humorous adaptation such as MASH and how far outside WWII he would be interested in going. So some suggestions even looked at the similarities of war films based in the 20th century conflicts to films like Gladiator or Troy based on conflicts in much earlier eras. There were a lot of suggestions for where to find quality suggestion lists, from various library websites to even the genre page on Wikipedia.

Moving from YA to Adult Fantasy – Meghan Savage, Surrey Libraries

Playing the part of a teenage patron wanting to move out of YA fantasy literature into adult Fantasy, Meghan challenged the audience to meet her interest in stand alone novels or short series with a romantic flare. Neil Gaiman’s work came up immediately and universally as a great cross-over author from YA to adult fantasy. Kelley Armstrong was also mentioned as an author who wrote both YA and adult fantasy, though much of her adult works is more urban in focus. Sharron Shinn, author of several fantasy series with a romantic focus, and Jim Butcher, with a more adventure driven series, were mentioned as authors of series that can be consumed out of order without too much disruption of story lines. The point was also made that fantasy contains many sub-genres to consider.

Positive Graphic Novels to Teach – Robbie Burma, Vancouver Public Library

Robbie Burma offered the biggest challenge to the audience by playing the part of a teacher looking for sunnier graphic novels to suggest for a 12th grade general English curriculum. It proved to be proved to be a real challenge to rule out the grittier, more violent and/or darker graphic novels while remaining age appropriate and maintaining literary depth. The end result was the need to dig deeper into the patron’s needs and widen the collaboration by audience members as much as possible to get to the best suggestions. The most consistent mentions were for Escape to Gold Mountain by David H. T. Wong and American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang.

Just a Good Book – Anthea Goffe, Fraser Valley Regional Library

It can be a stumper when the patron’s interests are really broad and vague so Anthea played a male patron just looking for any good read, fiction or non-fiction, but hopefully something that had a little literary merit balanced with a fast paced story. A few questions pulled out her appreciation of Hunger Games and Into Thin Air and her dislike of John Grisham and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. The audience found this challenge great fun and indulged a taste for gushing about many great titles and authors ranging from Bill Bryson to Lee Childs and from Margaret Atwood’s series beginning with Oryx and Crake to The Sex Lives of Cannibals by J Maarten Troost.

Pre-loaded E-reader Gift – Barbara Edwards, Vancouver Public Library

Finally, Barbara brought in the factor of eBooks by asking for recommendations including both fiction similar to Amy Tan or Downton Abbey and some quirky cookbooks to pre-load on an eReader gift for her daughter-in-law. The issue of the eReader type was brought up both in the mock interview and by audience members. Issues included the inability of Kindle owners to download library eBooks in Canada and the quality of visuals for cookbooks on a black and white eReader. The existence of The Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook seemed ideal, at least on a colour eReader, but the audience also realized a need to ask more questions about what “quirky” meant in relation to cookbooks.

Thrilling Speed-Dating Across the Genres

There was a whole new crop of genres to speed-date at this year’s RA in a Half Day. These excellent 10 minute overviews offered so much food for thought, we had to include a coffee break mid-way to give everyone time to digest it. But at least everyone was all topped off with ideas and ready to go for the Challenging RA Questions that followed.

These brief summaries will give you a taste of the speed-dating presentations, but there will be more complete reviews to follow. You can also contact us for a full copy of any of the genre presentations.

Noir – Marcus Mendes, Vancouver Public Library

Very first comment from Marcus Mendes on Noir fiction – Noir does not take place in polite society. Through a series of evocative quotes from great representations of Noir fiction, Marcus pulled out the key features of the genre from the swirling cigarette smoke and booze soaked stories to the charter types of the Femme Fatale and the Chump . The basic premise, though, is that things are going to go down hill, seriously and fast.

Chick Lit – Heidi Schiller, North Vancouver City Library

Heidi Shiller reacted to the previous presentation by immediately describing Chick Lit as the “arch opposite of Noir.” At its essence, this literature is addressing issues of modern womanhood in an often humorous and lighthearted. These books have an urban and modern focus (not to mention shopping!), but they also often include romance sub-plots while not being simply a romance genre because the protagonist’s relationship to friends and family are central to the story. However, there is some conversation over whether or not Chick Lit as either a genre or just a label for these titles is dying out.

New Adult – Tanya Thiessen, Surrey Libraries

Right away Tanya Thiessen addressed the fact that with New Adult RA, we have to be comfortable talking about sex. New Adult is a marketing term for (at this time) mostly eBook and online, self-published fiction with 18-25 year old protagonists often in college settings facing issues of identity development and exploring sexuality while still dealing with the fallout of difficult childhood experiences. All of this is wrapped up in a fast paced, emotionally intense story with a focus on a love (and sex) relationship. There are availability issues with these titles in libraries (being mostly eBooks and online titles) but many are available free or very cheap.

Self-Help – Jenny Fry, Surrey Libraries

A clear message from Jenny Fry’s presentation on Self-Help is that you can’t look in one place in your stacks to find it. From the 150s to the 650s, there’s Self-Help across the shelves so find out where the many varieties are at and what they focus on. Three key aspect of self help to remember in providing RA are the kind of tailored guidance, accuracy and included forms and features included. Jenny wrapped up her presentation on Self-Help with the perfect statement of Self-Help – “Life is your biggest DIY project.”

Graphic Novels for Adults – Matthew Murray, UBC – iSchool at SLAIS

According to Matthew Murray, you could just define Graphic Novels as comic book with spines (good audience chuckle on this one). However, you also have to remember that Graphic Novels are a medium, not a genre, so it includes materials in all genre areas. For Readers’ Advisory, its good to be aware of the publishers, because they tend to have a particular style, tone and quality that readers gravitate towards. In addition, ComiXology, while not available to libraries, does provide access to free digital editions of many popular titles.

Horror – Naomi Eisenstat, Surrey Libraries/New Westminster Public Library

The heart of the Horror genre, according to Naomi Eisenstat is emotional, the fright of the reader. While it can have many styles, even humorous, the menacing tone is consistent. Horror often includes elements of thrillers and mystery but there are often unresolved endings. Consider what kind of horror the patron is looking for, either in the storyteller or more violent style.

David Wright Revving Up RA in a Half Day 2013

RA in a Half Day, 2013 was kicked off with a friendly welcome from Robbie Burma, Co-Chair of BCLA’s Readers’ Advisory Interest Group and Branch Head of the Mount Pleasant Branch of VPL, who thanked Library Bound for sponsoring the event.

The thrills and chills on this Halloween RA in a Half Day began with David Wright, Readers’ Services Librarian at Seattle Public Library and frequent contributor to NovelList, Booklist, Kirkus, and so many other review spaces. Demonstrating his talents as a reader and celebrating adult story time, he began with a hair raising short story. This treat was followed up by an amazing whirlwind look at innovation, inspiration and collaboration in RA, with a real emphasis on the fact that just doing RA work is innovative! People are ready to be excited and engaged and amazed by these services.

David_Wright_RAHALFDAY

David gave a particularly strong look at Form-based Readers’ Advisory and using social media effectively in Readers’ Advisory. He discussed the advantages of both these methods for encouraging collaboration across staff and even between patrons. Asking on Facebook “What is the saddest book you ever read?” can develop a rich conversation among patrons and librarians. All of these collaborations can be built upon to help show patrons how the library is hearing and responding to their reading interests.