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When I was 16, a friend of mine asked me if I’d heard of NaNoWriMo.  It turned out that there was this event going into its second year called National Novel Writing Month, where the goal was to write a 50,000-word novel in 30 days.  Both of us were writers and at 16, my only real time concern was being in my last year of high school, so we decided we would both sign up and attempt this challenge.

 

NaNo (as it’s known to us Wrimos) was small back then, at least compared to today; its inaugural year in July 1999 featured a whole 21 participants.  By the time I heard of it, I was one of 5000, and the event was being reported in the L.A. Times and the Washington Post.  I won that year with a terrible novel about vampires, a talking cabbage, and a hellhound named Fluffy, because when you need to write 50,000 words in a month, reality is the least of your concerns.  I’ve participated every year since, in both the original NaNo and in the spinoff Camp NaNoWriMo, which began in 2011 and allows me to choose my own wordcount goal rather than sticking to the 50K.  I’ve also won every year, sometimes legitimately, sometimes by cheating... I mean, rebelling.

 

In 2003, NaNo’s founder, Chris Baty, wrote No Plot? No Problem (updated and revised in 2016), a guide to writing a novel, whether in 30 days or not.  My copy hangs out on my overburdened bookcase along with Stephen King’s On Writing, Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, and Dreyer’s English. NaNo taught me a lot about writing a first draft quickly, including the fact that it will suck and that’s okay.  As King says, you write your first draft with the door closed.  And preferably locked, when you live with your parents or roommates who inevitably want to know what you’re doing (writing), why (because I want to), and if they can be characters in your story (no).

 

In past years, there’s usually been one or two news articles or blog posts questioning NaNo and whether it’s ruining the sanctity of the written word.  They usually point out that a novel written in 30 days probably isn’t very good, and also such a singleminded focus on length won’t improve that.  This is true.  A novel written in 30 days will be awkward and ungainly, full of run-on sentences, illogical actions, and plotholes you can drive a truck through.  Characters change names, appearances, and occasionally gender.  Authors forget how to English (or whatever their language is), as proved by the hilarious NaNoisms thread that pops up every year for participants to chronicle their worst typos and brainfarts.  At the end of the month, you have a novel that is certainly not in any state to be published, or even shopped around to agents.

 

That’s not the point.  The point of NaNo is to get yourself writing.  It’s to train yourself to sit down in your chair, put your hands on the keyboard, and write some words.  Sometimes that’s only a sentence.  Sometimes you drag out the first few (hundred) words and your muse finally engages and you’re off flying, words spilling out so fast your fingers can’t even keep up.  Either way, you’re doing something many people say they’ll do but never carve out the time to actually do it.

 

Of course, there are plenty of novels out there that started as NaNovels and were beaten into submission, polished, and published by real live publishers.  They include Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, Wool by Hugh Howey, Cinder by Marissa Meyer, and many more.  And this year, though I haven’t actively been searching for any, I haven’t seen any handwringing about how NaNo is destroying writing as an art.  I have seen news articles, pep talks from famous authors, and library programs in areas like Burnaby, Montreal, and Cambridge’s Idea Exchange.  I’ve seen another official NaNoWriMo handbook in Brave the Page, a juvenile nonfiction guide and inspiration for middle graders.

 

In the 18 years I’ve been participating in NaNoWriMo, I’ve written almost 1 million words.  I’ve written halves of novels, full novels, short stories, novellas, 104K in a month, 50K in 6 days (Surgeon General’s Warning: not recommended unless you like uncontrollable tremors).  Whether I finish a full novel or rebel by rewriting older stories (or by writing blog posts), NaNo has taught me to just put my head down, stop complaining, and get it done.

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, and on Twitter, and to subscribe to our new YouTube Channel. We also encourage you to subscribe to the weekly Green Memo, and we hope you check back each and every week on this site for our latest musings on the publishing world.

 

Enjoy!

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If you’ve turned on the news lately, you may have heard of 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, the Swedish environmental activist who’s been making waves with her passionate speeches.  In August 2018, Greta began to protest climate change by sitting outside of Sweden’s national legislature, the Riksdag, with a sign reading Skolstrejk för klimatet (school strike for the climate).  Her protests have inspired countless similar protests throughout the world, and Greta herself has been invited to speak on many global stages, including here in Canada.

 

Greta and her family will be releasing their autobiography, Our House is on Fire: Scenes of a Family and a Planet in Crisis, at the end of April 2020.  For those who can’t wait for more information, however, Jeannette Winter has published a nonfiction picture book with the same title.  Other books featuring Greta’s story include Greta and the Giants by Zoe Tucker and No One is Too Small to Make a Difference by Greta herself.

 

Fortunately Greta isn’t the only one concerned with both the environment and our world as a whole.  Youth activism is on the rise, according to author and scholar Jessica Taft.  In the United States, the survivors of the Parkland school shooting have been campaigning for better gun control.  Malala Yousafzai has been working on behalf of girls and women since 2009, even surviving an assassination attempt.  Here in Canada, we have our own youth focusing on a range of topics, from Stella Bowles in Nova Scotia – whose juvenile nonfiction book My River: Cleaning up the Lahave River was recently nominated for the Forest of Reading – to Metis-Jamaican Larissa Crawford, and LGBTQ2+ activist Fae Johnstone.

 

Human impact on the environment and climate change have been big topics over the past few years.  In our recent election, climate change was second only to health care among Canadians polled by Ipsos.  The book world has seen a number of publications focused on the environment, climate change, and the plight of the natural world and its animals.  At the beginning of October, Kari Jones published Ours to Share: Co-Existing in a Crowded World as part of the Orca Footprints series.  The book focuses on the growth of the human population – from just a few hundred thousand people to our current population of nearly eight billion – and our impact on the world around us.  It’s a positive book, however, highlighting how we can share with our neighbours and what kids can do to help better the world.

 

One of the bigger issues in the climate change discussion is the issue of plastic.  Some steps have been taken to reduce our plastic waste – like encouraging reusable bags at the grocery store and charging for plastic ones – but there’s a glut of information out there that people may struggle to sort through.  The Plastic Problem by Rachel Salt. Written by a producer for the YouTube channel AsapSCIENCE, the book breaks down the issues and lays out solutions.  For younger readers, there’s also Join the No-Plastic Challenge by Scot Ritchie, part of the Exploring Our Community series.

 

We’re headed into winter now and the forecast for the year is milder but stormier.  While I can’t say I’ll particularly miss the dreaded polar vortex, unpredictable and stormy weather is still a sign of climate change.  According to NASA, the rising ocean temperatures are likely to lead to an increase in extreme rainstorms.  In the winter, despite the colder temperatures, the increase in evaporated water can also lead to heavier snowfall.

 

All hope isn’t lost, though.  Many people all over the world, including youth activists like Greta Thunberg, are working towards reducing our carbon emissions, pollution, and plastic garbage.  This past spring and summer, the #trashtag challenge went viral, encouraging people to clean up an area near them and post before and after photos.  Much better than throwing slices of plastic cheese onto your baby.

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, and on Twitter, and to subscribe to our new YouTube Channel. We also encourage you to subscribe to the weekly Green Memo, and we hope you check back each and every week on this site for our latest musings on the publishing world.

 

Enjoy!

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In the 1800s, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle introduced the world to his "consulting detective." As Sherlock Holmes is described, he is a private citizen who puts his powers of deduction and his network of allies and informants to work solving the crimes of England and beyond. Now, in 2019 another detective has emerged, this time in the real world, helping to bring unsolved crimes to a close using technology and deduction. Enter: Billy Jensen.

 

Jensen began his career as a crime beat reporter in New York, but he quickly grew disillusioned with the dispassion involved in the industry. Show up, jot down the facts that the police can divulge, and whether it gets reported on depends on how sensational the crime was. This kind of reporting was not helping to solve crimes, only to melodramatize the effects of crime on certain portions of the population.

 

Jensen likes a mystery. He likes to see all the pieces of a mystery laid out, and to work through the process of drawing connections and solving the mystery. This might be exemplified by his taking on a decades old missing person case in his spare time: who is an actor in the original Star Wars movie. In an early scene, Obi-Wan interacts with essentially an extra briefly. The character has no lines, just a shrug. He received no credit in the film. However, this being Star Wars, this character has a name - BoShek - and extensive back story, and action figures. Yet the man who played him was a day player, and his identity was unknown.

 

Jensen began his investigation conventionally, but hit dead end after dead end. The identity of this actor remained illusive. Finally, Jensen posted the materials he had gathered online. He lacked some piece of critical information that would unlock the key, and he hoped that the internet might be a tool that could be used to fill in the gaps of his knowledge. And it paid off. A family member of the actor - now known to be Frances Tomlin - saw the post and reached out to Jensen. Definitive proof was provided. The mystery was solved. And there the methodmight have withered on the vine, were it not for another tragedy.

 

In 2016, Michelle McNamara died. She had spent years investigating (and naming) the Golden State Killer when the case had long presumbed to have gone cold. After her death, Jensen along with Paul Haynes and McNamara's widower Patton Oswalt finsihed the book she had been writing, later released as I'll Be Gone in the Dark. And inspired by her focus on bringing this case back to the surface and the killer to justice, Jensen began to wonder if there were other crimes that could be solved by a consulting detective. What if the internet could be used to solve actual crimes, not just identify unknown science fiction actors?

 

In an era of where everything is crowdsourced - medical costs, pet projects, films, video games, arts and crafts, the naming of NASA rovers and tugboats - the idea of using the captive audience of the internet is no different than the idea of Sherlock Holmes using his network of homeless people to gather information. I personal might not know anything about sports, but there are people out there who are experts on every minor aspects of every concievable sport. Jensen's idea was to leverage that expertise to solve crimes.

 

So he began, finding street level crimes that the police had reached a dead end on. Cases where video evidence was available, but all leads had gone cold. Jensen examined the evidence and picked out elements that could be used to generate new leads. A partical glimpse of a getaway vehicle? Post it to a car forum on Reddit, and someone will be able to identify the design of the bumper down to the production line. Have a good shot of sneakers? Someone knows how many pairs of that shoe were made, and where they were sold. Jensen took it a step further, and started using Facebook ads to push footage to people who lived within blocks of where crimes happened, as many crimes are committed by locals. 

 

The methods and successes of this Crowdsolving has been put into a new book, Chase Darkness with Me. Want to follow along as Jensen solves minor crimes, and works his way up to investigating the murders of the Allenstown 4? Want to learn how to solve crimes on your own, using the powerful potential of the internet and social media. Jensen lays out the rules, the things to avoid, and what hasn't worked for him. So we can all be the Sherlocks of our Baker Streets.

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, and on Twitter, and to subscribe to our new YouTube Channel. We also encourage you to subscribe to the weekly Green Memo, and we hope you check back each and every week on this site for our latest musings on the publishing world.

 

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John Hodgman has described himself as a former weird 13 year old, who has made a career appealing to the weird 13 year old in all of us. For many of us, he remains the belligerent personification of the failings of Microsoft products. For others he is the cool voice of absurd reason in our ear-buds every week. The through-line in all of this has been his sardonic, laconic wit, put on display in four previous books and this October he will add a fifth as he achieves Medallion Status.

 

Hodgman has said that he never expected to become famous. He was the last person to every expect to be famous. No one expects a bespectacled, bookish, nerdy type to become a national icon. Such people were not prepared for the nerd revolution that gripped the early millennium, of which Hodgman became a patron saint. A native of Massachusetts, he grew up an only child imbued with, as he tells it, all the selfishness that that situation permits. He has described his parents more as old roommates, who happily shared their favourite movies and books with this increasingly weird kid who happened to be in their home. 

 

His career started as a literary agent, where he represented horror movie icon Bruce Campbell among others. Through this job he began writing columns and small humorous essays for McSweeney's. This inspired in him to write a book that had been long simmering in his brain, a book inspired by the weird 13 year old he had curled up inside him, a book of lies masquerading as facts delivered with the straight face and earnestness of a bookish New Englander. This was An Almanac of Complete World Knowledge Compiled with Instructive Annotation and Arranged in Useful Order by myself, John Hodgman, a Professional Writer, in The Areas of My Expertise, which Include: Matters Historical, Matters Literary, Matters Cryptozoological, Hobo Matters, Food, Drink & Cheese (a Kind of Food), Squirrels & Lobsters & Eels, Haircuts, Utopia, What Will Happen in the Future, and Most Other Subjects. As the title might suggest, absurdity ran amok.

 

Here things might have ended for this whimsical nerd, were it not for an opportune interview on The Daily Show. Jon Stewart called his chapter on 700 hobo names, which lists the 700 most common hobo names, a "kind of genius," and Hodgman conducted the appearance in "character" as John Hodgman, Expert, for whom certainty is absolute. The segment was a hit, and Hodgman was invited to join The Daily Show as it's Resident Expert, appearing from time to time to lampoon whatever craziness was happening in the news as though it were normal and natural, and above all, Known To Be True.

 

Hodgman's international recognition came from his role as PC in the incredibly popular Apple "Get A Mac" ads, alongside Justin Long's Mac, where PC would flounder at simple tasks while Mac looked on with pity. These ads brought fame and fortune to Hodgman, and an unexpected, mid life career as a Famous Minor Television Celebrity, the character through which he wrote his second book and direct follow up to Expertise (the page numbers continue from the original, as though it were a single tome, For Your Consideration, The Firms of Dutton & Riverhead Books Present in the English Language: A Further Compendium of Complete World Knowledge in "The Areas Of My Expertise," Assembled and Illumined by Me, John Hodgman, A Famous Minor Television Personality, Offering More Information Than You Require On Subjects as Diverse as: The Past (as There Is Always More of It), The Future (as There Is Still Some Left), All of the Presidents of the United States, The Secrets of Hollywood, Gambling, The Sport of the Asthmatic Man (Including: Hermit-Crab Racing), Strange Encounters with Aliens, How to Buy a Computer, How to Cook an Owl, and Most Other Subjects

 

In these waning days of the aught decade, social media became prevalent and Hodgman used his Minor Fame to develop a large following on Twitter (@Hodgman) and later Instagram. As the Mac ads came to end, he began acting in earnest, appearing in small rolls in niche series like Flight of the Concords, Battlestar Galactica, and Bored to Death. During this period he took on a new character, a Deranged Millionaire, and in this guise wrote the final book of complete world knowledge, That Is All, which while still featuring the absurdest humour of the others is also a meditative and somber examination of sudden and unexpected fame. He released a Netflix comedy special to promoted the book, Ragnarok, which has since been removed to avoid confusion with the most recent Thor movie. As Jon Stewart left the Daily Show, so too did Hodgman. And then he did as many white dudes in the 10s were want to do: he started a podcast.

 

Judge John Hodgman is a comedy justice podcast, set up like court TV shows like Judge Judy. Real people submit petty and hilarious disputes on which Hodgman listens to their arguments, cracks jokes, and issues rulings. For nearly a decade, he has dispensed swift justice weekly from his chambers in Brooklyn on the Maximum Fun network. And through his Fake Internet Court he has built up a large backlog of Settled Law: hotdogs are not sandwiches, about which he debated Stephen Colbert; weird dads are the font of all embarrassment to children in the world; and husbands always come up with systems to make things easier which in practice never make things easier and are nearly always the wrong way of doing anything. 

 

In the last decade, Hodgman has continued to be a part time actor, most recently appearing in the second season of Amazon's The Tick, but he has largely dropped the characters of his past and is now just Hodgman, a weird 13 year old turned Weird Dad. He wrote of these experiences in 2017's Vacationland, which began as a one man show and series of essays on his teenage children, the summers that his family spend in Maine (a world of Painful Beaches), and losing his parents at different times in his life. The book is his personal crisis of discovering the "awful truth of my life, which is that I am a strange, white, male monster with bad facial hair staring down what... I hope is the beginning of the second half of my life and not the brief, final tenth."

 

This month he releases a companion volume, Medallion Status in which he details his new career as a professional Delta Airlines passenger while crossing North America on book tours, taking acting jobs, and dispensing Live Justice for performances of the his podcast. Where Vacationland looked as this personal life as an aging man, Medallion Status will examine the second act of a career he never expected to have and still is uncertain if he earned, as objectified by his Delta medallion status and access to the privileged and secretive Delta Sky Club (which, I highly recommend his appearance on the Dough Boys podcast in which they review the buffet of the Sky Lounge).

 

Those near to the GTA have the opportunity to see some Live Justice this November, as Judge John Hodgman and his bailiff Max Fun founder Jesse Thorn come to the Danforth Music Hall for a night of good clean rulings and musical accompaniment. I have seen Hodgman live three times, and his wit is no less weird, his delivery no less straight, but his empathy so much more on display. 

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, and on Twitter, and to subscribe to our new YouTube Channel. We also encourage you to subscribe to the weekly Green Memo, and we hope you check back each and every week on this site for our latest musings on the publishing world.

 

Yours, Fictionally

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In February 2017, journalist Robyn Doolittle and the Globe and Mail published their Unfounded investigation.  The result of 20 months spent interviewing sexual assault survivors and gathering data, the series showed that, across Canada, 1 in 5 complaints of sexual assault were dismissed as ‘unfounded’ – an official police code that closed the case with no investigation.  In the wake of the report, over 37,000 cases were put under review, the Federal government pledged $100 million towards a national strategy to prevent gender-based violence, and the RCMP reviewed their unfounded policies.

 

This month, Robyn Doolittle publishes her follow-up book, Had It Coming: What’s Fair in the Age of #MeToo? Originally coined in 2006 by American social activist Tarana Burke, #MeToo became a global phenomenon in October 2017, spreading virally on Twitter and Facebook thanks to actress Alyssa Milano and the allegations against film producer Harvey Weinstein.  The movement has helped change the view on sexual assault and enabled women to speak out about their experiences, resulting in a number of resignations across the world.

 

Also published this month is She Said by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, who originally broke the Harvey Weinstein story in the New York Times.  The book follows not only their Weinstein investigation, but looks at Christine Blasey Ford and her testimony against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh – and the results of her allegation.  Not only was Kavanaugh still confirmed to the Supreme Court, but Blasey Ford received death threats, has been forced to move multiple times, and has been unable to resume her teaching job.

 

These kinds of consequences are what keep many victims silent about sexual assault and harassment, but with the global spread of the #MeToo movement, this is beginning to change.  And it’s not just women speaking out; male victims, including actor Terry Crews, have shared their stories, and many men are looking at how they can be allies and shut down sexual harassment when they see it.  In the book world, we’ve had a number of books on how to raise boys to become men who value consent, including Raising Boys Who Respect Girls by Dave Willis, Decoding Boys by Cara Natterson, and Boys: What It Means to Become a Man by Rachel Giese.

 

The focus on women has also resulted in many books on forgotten female heroes, feminism, and women’s rights.  In October, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton will publish The Book of Gutsy Women, focusing on stories of the female heroes who have inspired them.  These heroes include Malala Yousafzai, who published We Are Displaced at the beginning of 2019; Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, who published Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions in 2017; and LGBTQ pioneer Edie Windsor, whose posthumous book in also publishing in October: A Wild and Precious Life.

 

Here in Canada, #MeToo spawned AfterMeToo via a Globe and Mail symposium featuring, among others, actresses Mia Kirshner and Freya Ravensbergen, and film producer Aisling Chin-Yee.  AfterMeToo calls for change in the entertainment industry, including creating reform and improving current policies, in cooperation with the Canadian Women’s Foundation.

 

In January, Lisa Dalrymple published Fierce: Women Who Shaped Canada, detailing the forgotten women from Canada’s history. In May, Orca Books published two entries in their Orca Issues series: I Am a Feminist: Claiming the F-Word in Turbulent Times and My Body My Choice: The Fight for Abortion Rights.  In August, Kelly S. Thompson published her memoir, Girls Need Not Apply, about her time serving in the Canadian Armed Forces – a traditionally masculine culture.  And at the end of this month, Jessica McDiarmid will publish her account of B.C.’s Highway 16, Highway of Tears, where for decades Indigenous women have vanished or been found murdered, with little done to protect them.

 

The publication of these books, and others, helps bring the focus onto women and our experiences, both positive and negative.  #MeToo and the other movements it’s helped spawn have created a global conversation around women’s rights and the sexual assault and harassment that happens to far too many people.  While we still have a way to go, I’m hopeful that society as a whole will continue to shift towards a world where both women and men feel safe, supported, and valued.

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, and on Twitter, and to subscribe to our new YouTube Channel. We also encourage you to subscribe to the weekly Green Memo, and we hope you check back each and every week on this site for our latest musings on the publishing world.

 

Enjoy!

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A couple years ago, I was in Michaels looking for something that I could make my Nanny as a present for Christmas, as there’s only so many gift sets one woman needs.  Wandering through the aisles, I came across a small section containing cross-stitch kits and various supplies.  I figured, can’t be too hard to do a kit; everything is included and besides, I had a vague memory of doing one back when I was eight or so.  If a child could do it, surely a 30-something alleged adult could too.

 

So I bought a lovely little kit featuring goldfinches and lilacs, took it home, opened it up, and stared in horror at the graph.  There was a grid and a lot of symbols and apparently I needed to be able to count to do this arts and crafts project.  I put it on a nearby surface and that year, my Nanny got gift cards for gas and Tim Hortons.

 

This whole cross-stitch thing stayed in the back of my mind, however.  Sometime in the new year, I was back in Michaels and ended up in the cross-stitch aisle again.  This time, I chose a kit that said it was specifically for children, took it home, and promptly did it completely wrong because reading directions is for other people.  Two days later (after reading the directions this time), I’d redone it correctly and it actually looked pretty good.  More importantly, I’d gotten the bug and I got it bad. 

 

Fast forward to the end of 2019 and I know all the terms: Aida cloth versus linen, DMC versus Anchor, cross stitch and half stitch and quarter stitch and back stitch.  My apartment is covered in embroidery floss in piles and little baggies, and draped over my spare monitor.  I have an entire box full of kits, supplies, picture frames, and random related things my mother (bless her) picked up at garage sales and thrift stores.  I know that removing stitches when you make a mistake is called frogging... because you rip it, rip it.

 

Cross-stitch as represented in media and in the public consciousness is usually pastel flowers and religious sayings, done by 50s housewives and your local grandma.  Modern cross-stitch can certainly be that (and there’s nothing wrong with it), but it can also be subversive (2641425), feminist (3475227), and the poop emoji.  Anyone of any age can pick it up if they have the money for a little kit and the time (and patience) to repeatedly stab a needle through tiny holes. Personally, I like lots of bright and contrasting colours and basically any subject, though I prefer images over text.  Everyone in my life gets finished projects as presents now, and if they’re really lucky, I’ll even frame it for them.

 

In a fast-paced world with constant bombardment of everything that’s going wrong at any given time, I find cross-stitch to be soothing.  In the evenings after work, I put something on Netflix and I spend a couple of hours working on a project.  I even have a project at work that I can spend my breaks on when I need to stop looking at a computer screen for fifteen minutes.  I’m also one of those people who bounces around projects so I’ve got half a dozen on the go most of the time and switch depending on my mood.  I’ve been told that I’m (finally) becoming domestic, but really it’s just the pleasure of doing something with my hands and creating.

 

Crafts of all kinds are on the rise.  In the UK, Hobbycraft reports that craft sales are rising each year: jigsaws by 10%, paint-by-numbers by 80%, and crochet patterns by a whopping 179%.  I’m even seeing it in my work here at LSC, with requests from multiple libraries to increase and refresh their crafting collections, with a focus on quilting and knitting. To see our selection of unique and modern cross-stitching materials, click here

 

I’m not the only one who uses cross-stitch for mental health.  According to hobbyist site The Spruce Crafts, the benefits of cross-stitch include calmness, increased focus, and stress reduction.  I can confirm that when I’m cross-stitching, I don’t have time to focus on worries; I’m too busy trying to figure out how I managed to count 5 stitches instead of 6, throwing off my entire pattern.  Sometimes I can fix it and no one will ever know, unless they happen to be a cross-stitcher working on the same pattern.  Most times it needs to be frogged, but that’s okay; as long as I have the floss, I can redo it as many times as needed to get it right.

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, and on Twitter, and to subscribe to our new YouTube Channel. We also encourage you to subscribe to the weekly Green Memo, and we hope you check back each and every week on this site for our latest musings on the publishing world.

 

Enjoy!

 

*pictures of cross-stitched items by the author

 

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At LSC, we endeavor to ensure that Canadian libraries have unparalleled access to Canadian content, whether that be materials by Canadians, about Canadians, or what is important to Canadians. Part of that commitment is improving access to materials by Indigenous Peoples. Thanks to some recent initiatives, we now have additional tools to help with that.

 

Back in June BookNet Canada announced a research project they had undertaken, to generate a list of materials specifically dealing with Canadian Indigenous topics. As a starting point, they used BISAC codes to isolate the sales data on materials associated with Indigenous or Native American/Canadian headings. They were then able to see how these materials have sold compared to other English language materials. Happily, from 2016, there have been consistent gains in sales for Indigenous themed material. Next, they pulled just the data from Junes 2018 to 2019, identified the top sellers and broke down the results into Fiction and Non-Fiction categories for Adult and Juvenile. The resulting four lists they are calling the Bestselling Indigenous Books in Canada.

 

They are quick to point out that only two of the forty items were not written by Canadian or Indigenous authors. They also point out that Canadian publishers are responsible for most of the items on the list. This is all to say, this list represents a collection of books in which Indigenous Peoples are telling their own stories, a critical and foundational aspect of decolonization.

 

For a more complete breakdown of their methodology, see their announcement post here. For your ease, we’ve put all four lists together into one single Slist, from which you can purchase the items directly. The Adult Fiction list includes recent favourites by Joseph Boyden and Thomas King, as well as brand new books like There, There by Tommy Orange, and Starlight by Richard Wagamese. The Non Fiction list is a fantastic list of items that would bolster any collection, including All Our Relations by Tanya Talaga, and Indigenous Relations by Bob Joseph.

 

The children’s lists consist of many items that I know are already being used in many elementary schools, including Fatty Legs by Christy Jordan-Fenton and Margaret Pokiak-Fenton and The Sharing Circle by Theresa Meuse. As well as newer titles that will hopefully find their ways into the hands of more young Canadians, like The Girl and the Wolf by Katherena Vermette and Go Show the World by Wab Kinew and Joe Morse.

 

In addition to this, the UN General Assembly has designated 2019 as the International Year of Indigenous Languages. This resolution came about as “40 per cent of the world’s estimated 6,700 languages were in danger of disappearing— the majority belonging to indigenous peoples.” They hope to raise awareness of these languages and the cultures they represent internationally. You can see the full scope of their initiative here

 

Map: Chris Brackley/Can GeoIn Canada, 2011 census data shows that there are 60 active Indigenous languages, belonging to 12 root language families, spoken by 213,000 people across the nation. Canadian Geographic has put together a wonderful graphic mapping these languages, which can be viewed fully here (Image credit: Chris Brackley/Can Geo.)

 

To support this Year of Indigenous Languages, LSC has put together a list of recent and prominent Indigenous materials. This list of 101 items is a mix of Fiction and Non-Fiction, Adult and Juvenile, English and French. The items are all by Canadian Indigenous authors, again ensuring that people are telling their own stories. These items would form a powerful foundation to an Indigenous collection, and satisfies two of the UN’s five key action areas: “Increasing understanding, reconciliation and international cooperation”; and “Elaborating new knowledge to foster growth and development.”

 

LSC is committed to helping libraries decolonize and increase the representation in their collections. Indigenous languages are part of that commitment. We list Southern Cree, Inuktitut and Ojibway among the languages available through our World Languages program. We are constantly looking out for new materials from new and existing publishers, in Indigenous languages. As demand for this material grows, so will supply, and LSC will be there to help libraries build the best collections for their customers.

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, and on Twitter, and to subscribe to our new YouTube Channel. We also encourage you to subscribe to the weekly Green Memo, and we hope you check back each and every week on this site for our latest musings on the publishing world.

 

Yours, Fictionally

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One of the reasons my bookclub fellows and bookworm friends keep me around is for the book recommendations. They know I have the inside track on what is currently popular, but also what is coming. And that is a great perk of working in libraries: knowing months in advance what books are to be published. But who do librarians turn to for reader advisory? That’s where Loan Stars comes in.

 

Loan Stars, for those who don’t know, is an amazing reader’s advisory program. Run in conjunction by BookNet Canada and the Canadian Urban Libraries Council, this service aggregates the recommendations of working library professionals into monthly lists. And unlike some commercial lists, which focus on bringing existing books to the public’s attention, Loan Stars is focused on the future. Their monthly lists consist of the most recommended items that will be published within the following month.

 

How does it work? Anyone working in a library in Canada can sign up for a free CataList account. Then, so long as you are logged in, you will see a “recommend” button next to eligible titles. Click the button, and that’s it. At the end of every month, the super computers and clever folk at Loan Stars tally the results, and the ten books with the most recommendations are added to one of two lists: adult and juvenile.

 

This is a fantastic way to get the word out about books that people haven’t heard about yet. At LSC, we swim in the galley proofs that are sent to us by publishers, and from my days in libraries, I know the case is true there too. And it is a (nerdy) thrill to have the inside track on a book that no one else will be able to read for months. I’m sure we’re all the same, when you read a good book, all you want to do is tell people they should read it. Loan Stars is one of the best ways to tell colleagues across Canada what they should keep an eye out for, or get the jump on and order in advance.

 

We all use things like the New York Times Best Seller list, or Canada Reads to build our collections, but those are reactive lists, and much of the demand for those items is driven by patrons. Loan Stars gives you the chance to get ahead of the rush on items no one has heard of yet, but will want. What I like about it is, it’s not just the best sellers. Those books are going to be popular regardless, they barely need our help. These are recommendations coming directly from staff; their actual opinions, not just what they think will be popular but what they think should be popular.

 

Take a book like Vessel, by Lisa A. Nichols, or Grass, by Kuem Suk Gendry-Kim. These are not books that would usually end up on conventional lists. But enough of your peers across the country liked them so much, they ended up on recent Loan Stars lists. It has effected my personal reading; every month there is at least one book that catches me by surprise and that I immediately put on hold at my local branch. I don’t know if I would have found No Country for Old Gnomes, by Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne, without it.

 

 

 

What’s on their lists for August? Some choice morsels include:

  • Translated from Gibberish, by Anosh Irani, is a collection of short stories exploring his life and experience as an immigrant. Knitting together his life through seven tales set in India or Canada, with wit and heart, Irani presents a raw – if not entirely truthful – autobiographical journey.
  • Snow, Glass, Apples, by Colleen Doran and Neil Gaiman, is a graphic novel adaptation of Gaiman’s original short story from Smoke and Mirrors, itself a twisted version of the story of Snow White. As only Gaiman can, the story weaves melancholy and pathos with vampirism and necrophilia. This volume pairs that with Doran’s crisp style which blends clean characters with conceptual layout design. This is their second collaboration, having recently also graphically adapted Gaiman’s Troll Bridge (one of my personal favourites).
  • Hello I Want to Die Please Fix Me, by Anna Mehler Paperny, is a frank, honest, and at times absurd memoir detailing her time in a psych ward after her first suicide attempt, and her journey through the long-term treatment of living with depression. While not unique to the experiences of those whose life is touched by depression, Paperny’s perspective is a uniquely Canadian one in publishing. There are few books that touch on the Canadian Health Care system, the Canadian pharmaceutical system, the Canadian Mental Health system as it relates to depression, which are far more relevant to Canadian readers than anything coming up from south of the border.
  • Code Like a Girl: Rad Tech Projects and Practical Tips, by Miriam Peskowitz, is a great resource for kids who want to learn how to code, and offers step-by-step instructions for actual projects, like building a motion sensor for their room, or creating smartphone gloves.
  • And, I would be remise in my duty as a professional and a connoisseur of fine literature if I did not point out that Does It Fart: A Kid's Guide to the Gas Animals Pass, by Nick Caruso, absolutely made this month’s list. As well it is should.

Now, you’re asking yourself, “how do I read these monthly lists?” There are two ways. One is to sign up for the Loan Stars monthly email, which has the lists delivered direct to your inbox. However, if you want to be able to see the list and immediately purchase the items on it, LSC creates an Slist version of every Loan Stars list, so you can view and add the items to your cart in our catalogue. Here are the links to the most recent Adult and Juvenile Loan Stars lists for August, and you can find older lists under the “Special” heading in the Slist page

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, and on Twitter, and to subscribe to our new YouTube Channel. We also encourage you to subscribe to the weekly Green Memo, and we hope you check back each and every week on this site for our latest musings on the publishing world.

 

Yours, Fictionally

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June is Pride month. And every library deserves to have the best and latest materials created by, celebrating, and helping to create more allies of the LGBTQ+ community. This week's blog is a combination of efforts from our Selectors, who keep an eye out all year long for new material, and thankfully the amount being made is increasing every year. There are, happily, too many to talk about. We can however, bring attention to a few.

 

A Quick & Easy Guide to Queer & Trans Identities, by Mady G., J.R. Zuckerberg, 

is a great starting point for anyone curious about queer and trans life, and helpful for those already on their own journeys! In this quick and easy guide covers topics like sexuality, gender identity, coming out, and navigating relationships through informative comics, interviews, and worksheets.

 

In graphic novels, we can recommend Bloom by Kevin Panetta. Ari meets Hector while interviewing him as his replacement at his family bakery. As they get to know each other, and as Ari's desire to get away from the life he knew overlaps with Hector entering his world, love rises like a fresh loaf of bread. Meat & Bone, by Kat Verhoeven, is set in Toronto, and follows three young women dealing with the modern world. One roommate wrestles with severe body image issues, another is trying to figure out how to navigate her new polyamorous relationships, while the third practically moves into the gym to work out her own problems.

 

Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me by Mariko Tamaki follows Frederica Riley as she dates, then breaks up with, then dates again her high school dream girl Laura Dean. Except Laura might not be the best influence on Frederica. Kiss Number 8 by Colleen Venable is about Mads, who is so caught up in her personal discovery that she is less interested in Adam than she is in Cat, that she fails to notice that her dad is hiding something big--so big it could tear her family apart.  Finally, On a Sunbeam by Tillie Walden takes place in two different time periods. In one, a ragtag crew travels to the deepest reaches of space, rebuilding beautiful, broken structures to discover the past. In the other, two girls meet in boarding school and fall deeply in love, only to learn the pain of loss.

 

In Children's, we start with It Feels Good To Be Yourself, a picture book by One Bad Mother podcast co-host Theresa Thorn. Inspired by her own young child's transition, this book simply helps young kids understand that some people are boys. Some people are girls. Some people are both, neither, or somewhere in between. In any case, they are people who are being themselves, and everyone is happiest when they are who they really are, and not who others say they have to be.

 

Michael Joosten has a pair of board books out, My Two Moms and Me and My Two Dads and Me, which follow happy, diverse LGBTQ+ families as they go about their daily - sometimes busy - routines. 

 

Jacob's Room to Choose by Sarah Hoffman is the sequel to Jacob's New Dress. In this encouraging story about gender expression, Jacob and his classmate Sarah both get chased out of the bathrooms they try to use because they don't dress the "usual" way. This starts a conversation at the school the many forms of gender expression and how to treat each other with respect.

 

For Young Adults, Technically, You Started It by Lana Wood Johnson is about technology, mental health, identity, and expression. Haley and Martin feel like they are the only ones who really get each other. Martin is willing to listen to her weird facts and unusual obsessions, and Martin feels like Haley is the first person to really see who he is. The problem is, they don't really know each other, only speaking over text, and its possible they are becoming addicted to each other.

 

In Non Fiction, Pride: The LGBTQ+ Rights Movement by Christopher Measom is the most in-depth visual tribute to the American LGBTQ+ pride movement ever created. Staring in post WWI bohemian subculture and marching up to the present day push for gender rights, the book features rare photographs, artwork, profiles of movement icons and heroes, activist speeches, and excepts from news reports and literary works. 

 

Stonewall: A Building. An Uprising. A Revolution by Rob Sanders is written to introduce children to the true story of the birth of the modern gay right movement during the Stonewall Riot on June 28, 1969, in time for the 50th anniversary. The police raid that night, the riot that followed, and the empowerment it inspired in members of the LGBTQ+ community sparked their demanding of equal rights.

 

And there is Antoni in the Kitchen. This cookbook comes from Montreal chef and one of the stars of of the Netflix smash hit Queer Eye, Antoni Porowski, and is all about the way to find success in the kitchen with stylishly accessible, few-ingredient recipes.

 

In fiction, there are several Canadian offerings. Song of the Sea by Jenn Alexander follows Lisa Whelan moving to her family's sea-side home to get over the grief of losing her newborn son. She's not expecting to meet anyone, and is caught off guard by the attraction she feels for Rachel, the part-owner of a local restaurant.

 

Even Weirder Than Before is the debut novel from Newfoundland author Susie Taylor. Daisy’s simple life is thrown into cataclysm when her father suddenly leaves and her mother breaks down. Add to that her increasingly confused feelings towards girls, and the drama of past boys that keep coming in with the tide. Our rep Michael Clark saw Susie read an except from the book recently, and it is a deeply personal, deeply funny book, which is garnering a lot of attention.

 

If, Then by Kate Hope Day is an unexpected character study. A quiet Oregon suburb is disrupted by the rumbling of a distant, dormant volcano. At the same time, people begin seeing visions of their lives - not as they are, but as they might be. Samara sees the mother she just lost alive and well. Cass, a new mother struggling with her life choices, sees a different life for herself. Mark sees a wild, homeless creature with his eyes. And Ginny sees a life of domestic bliss with her female coworker. What do these visions mean, and how will they change the lives of everyone in the shadow of the mountain?

 

This is but a scant few of the LGBTQ+ items available through LSC. Slists are available at numbers 41996, 41997, and 41998, and our selectors would be happy to discuss themes and put lists together for you, upon request. Please feel free to reach out to Rachel, Sara, Stef, and Angela for more.

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, and on Twitter, and to subscribe to our new YouTube Channel. We also encourage you to subscribe to the weekly Green Memo, and we hope you check back each and every week on this site for our latest musings on the publishing world.

 

Happy Pride.

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Over the past few years, true crime in a variety of formats has flourished.  Although there’s always been a fascination with heinous murders, daring bank robberies, and hilariously inept criminals, it seems that the genre has seen a renaissance lately.  Not only are there books to read, but anyone with access to the internet can explore true crime websites, listen to true crime podcasts, and watch true crime documentaries and docuseries.

 

True crime has always fascinated people.  William Roughhead, a Scottish lawyer and considered the father of the true crime genre, began writing about murder trials in 1889.  Before that, from 1550 to 1700, the British upper and middles classes could read murder pamphlets and were known to create ballads, many from the murderer’s point of view. Judith Flanders investigated this period in her book The Invention of Murder. Our more modern ‘novel’ style of true crime writing is thought to have originated with Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, published in 1965.

 

TV, film, and especially podcasts centering on true crime are a more modern invention.  TV and film can include both documentaries – some with reenactments, some without – and dramatic films based on the crime.  One of the pioneers in TV true crime is Forensic Files, a half-hour series that began airing in 1996.  Each episode is presented as a mystery and involves both reenactments and interviews with the real detectives and scientists involved with the case.  For Canadian cases in a similar format, there’s 72 Hours, which has 3 seasons and a couple of familiar faces in the reenactments.

 

True crime podcasts rose to prominence in 2014 with Serial, which broke records by the speed with which it reached 5 million downloads (and opened the door for books on the topic of Adnan Syed to be written). This was followed by other podcasts, including Dirty John, which also has both a documentary and a fictionalized series on Netflix, and My Favorite Murder, whose presenters are coming out with the book Stay Sexy & Don’t Get Murdered at the end of this month.  Canada also has its own true crime podcast in Canadian True Crime, narrated by Kristi Lee.

 

Of course, books have always been a great source for true crime tales.  One of the most famous authors of the genre was Ann Rule, who not only wrote about some of the biggest murders in the world, but also worked with infamous serial killer Ted Bundy.  Published in 1980, The Stranger Beside Me focuses both on Rule’s relationship with Bundy – which began in 1971 at a Seattle crisis clinic – and on Bundy’s childhood, murders, and eventual trials.  Personally I’ve always enjoyed Rule’s Crime Files books, which focus on a collection of different cases rather than just one.

 

While Ann Rule is the queen of true crime, there are many other books and authors out there, including Canadians.  In 2018 we had two Jerry Langton books about bikers – The Secret Life of Bikers and The Hard Way Out, which Langton wrote with Dave Atwell – and a book about our most infamous bootlegger, The Whisky King by Trevor Cole.  Coming this year, we have The Golden Boy of Crime, about bank robber and proto-Kardashian Norman “Red” Ryan; Why Don’t You Ask Mrs. Small?, featuring a millionaire who vanished from Toronto in 1919; and Highway of Tears, an examination of the Indigenous women found murdered – or who vanished – on Highway 16 in British Columbia.  And for those who need a break from the gruesome, there’s always Jack Kirchhoff’s The World’s Dumbest Criminals, which is exactly what it says on the tin.

 

So why do we love true crime so much?  According to a Global News interview with Jooyoung Lee, an associate professor of sociology at UTP, we’re ‘just drawn to extreme cases of violence.’  Part of this is that we’re naturally curious, but also crime grabs our attention by being exciting and entertaining.  We also, according to Lee, like to feel like we’re part of the story, especially when it comes to cold cases that we might have a hand in solving.

 

In 2018, the book I’ll Be Gone in the Dark was published posthumously after its author’s, Michelle McNamara, death.  Roughly two months later, the book’s subject, the Golden State Killer, was finally arrested after 42 years.  McNamara’s colleague, investigative journalist Bill Jensen, credits McNamara with helping to keep the case alive when it had gone cold and the media attention on her book with putting pressure on the police to find the killer.

 

The true crime genre isn’t likely to go away any time soon.  There are always new crimes being committed, and the world will always be fascinated by them, especially in the current cynical, uncertain times.

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, and on Twitter, and to subscribe to our new YouTube Channel. We also encourage you to subscribe to the weekly Green Memo, and we hope you check back each and every week on this site for our latest musings on the publishing world.

 

Enjoy!

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