Friday, March 13, 2009

Nancy Pearl

One of the great benefits of my job is that I get to meet interesting people. This week I had the chance to hear celebrity librarian (and action figure model) Nancy Pearl speak - twice.

Our annual foundation fundraiser was Saturday night. I love Literary Lions, because as the offical "author wrangler" I get to have dinner with some wonderful authors, like Greg Bear, Garth Stein, Julia Quinn, Deb Caletti, and Susan Wiggs. And since it's a gala, that means I get to wear an evening gown too. This year, I was especially excited because my friend, Uber-Agent Jeff Kleinman was there for the evening. Good friends, good talk about books and raising money for the library - this is a fabulous event.

Nancy Pearl was our emcee for the evening, and Garth Stein, author of The Art of Racing in the Rain, was the featured author. (If you haven't read it yet, you are in for a wonderful treat). He spoke eloquently about the way booksellers and librarians can help to build an author's career by handselling books, or doing what we call, "reader's advisory".

On Wednesday we had a staff training with Nancy Pearl about "reader's advisory" and she broke down the way we choose books into what was a very sensible format. She suggested that readers choose books based on: 1. Story 2. Character 3. Setting and 4. Language. If you make a list of 5-10 of your favorite books, it's very likely that one of these elements will "jump out" at you. You might discover a combination of elements, but generally one will stand out as a part of the reason you chose and loved that book.

For me, character and story are primary elements of all my favorite books. Give me an interesting, quirky character in a plot filled with action and adventure and I'm happy. It's not surprising that I write books like that too. Setting also plays a big part in my books, (especially the wilderness of Montana) and Nancy made a link to world-building that makes sense. I write historical romance and paranormal romance, and both types of books involve creating a setting that is believable.

Nancy made the idea of talking about books with friends, (and strangers) sound fun. There was chatter in the lunch room and we compared books, made suggestions to others and practiced our "reader's advisory" skills. Now when strangers ask me what they should read next, (inevitable when I tell people I work in a library) I know how to turn it back to them and discover the kinds of books they love, link it to some interesting possiblities and always keep it about them -- NOT me.

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