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Happy Anniversary!

On May 31, 2011, I posted my very first “how-to” episode of Be a Better Booktalker, in which I introduced the concept of booktalking.  Since then, I’ve been keeping up with creating new “how-to” episodes once a month.  Granted, several times I thought the well was running dry, but new topics have continued to bubble up from the recesses of my brain and have also been sparked by questions from my listeners.  I’ve also been able to maintain a steady supply of weekly episodes consisting of one booktalk each.  So far, I’ve had a mix of old and new booktalks, using many that I’ve written and archived over the years.  That archive has grown considerably smaller over the last year, but I still have a good stash of booktalks left in reserve.

So now it’s time for me to look forward to next year, think about the future of this blog and podcast, and think about some changes that you and I can make together. 

I had taken several of my booktalks out of contention for Be a Better Booktalker because I’d previously presented them on another podcast.  Well, I’ve decided that I’m going to put those titles back in my master archive list because that way my listeners will be able to access all of them in one place, and I’ll have the opportunity to explore and explain the booktalking techniques and history of each one.  I don’t guarantee that they’re all going to become future episodes; I’m just letting you know that I’m putting those titles back in the mix.

And now here’s the part where you come in.  If you have ideas for books that you’d like me to booktalk or topics you’d like me to cover in future “how-to” episodes, please let me know.  You can help me shape the future of this podcast with your suggestions!  You can leave me comments here or write to me at beabetterbooktalker at gmail dot com.  Also, you can help Be a Better Booktalker grow by spreading the word to your friends and colleagues.  If you know librarians, teachers, parents, or anyone else who might be able to benefit from this podcast, please send them the link to this website or tell them to check out the podcast on iTunes. 

Let’s take the dying art of booktalking and pull it out of the ashes!

Anyway, thanks so much to everyone who’s been listening since day one, to my new listeners who are just starting to explore the archived episodes, and to everyone who’s been helping to spread the word about this podcast.  It’s been a great year, and I look forward to sharing booktalks with you for years to come!

Working on My Goodreads Profile

So, I’m wondering … have any of you ever tried to compile one list of everything you’ve read, are currently reading, and are planning to read in the future?  It’s frigging EXHAUSTING!  I guess part of the problem is that over the last few years I wrote book reviews for several print, online, and podcast resources, and I have those reviews saved in several different places.  Come to think of it, I just thought of another place that I haven’t checked yet.  Hmmmmm.  Maybe that will be next week’s project …

I’ve spent many hours over the last week just sifting through recommendations, searching for titles and authors, assigning star ratings, and compiling lists.  I haven’t even written a single review yet!  Also, I’ve been adjusting my inclusion criteria as I’ve gone along.  For example, I started pulling out sequels because the list was getting too damn long.  So every time you see something on my list that’s volume 1 of a series, it’s very possible that I also read the rest of that series.  Usually that’s the case (like in the case of The Dark Tower, Vampire Academy, and Harry Potter) but sometimes I stopped reading after the first book (like Twilight).  And since I’m a young adult librarian and I spend a lot of time reading books for younger audiences, I included a lot of children’s and young adult books.  My criteria in that category was that they should be books that I read or at least re-read since I became an adult.

Anyway, if you haven’t visited Goodreads yet, you should check out the website and see what you think.  I picked Goodreads as the place to create my list because one of the podcasts I listen to (the F&SF-themed Sword and Laser podcast) has a discussion group on the Goodreads website. 

Anyway, check out my profile and see what you think.  It’s still a work in progress, but I think I have the majority of my work out of the way now.

Planning Out My Booktalks For Next Season

Every year I present booktalks to many classes as part of my presentation introducing the public library.  There are some schools that I visit every year, and for those I usually present a mix of old and new books, hardcovers and paperbacks.  I never bring all-new books for two reasons; because many school librarians have asked me to booktalk a mix of hardcovers and paperbacks to make it cheaper for them to order copies, and because I usually bring ten books in my rolling suitcase and I would have trouble keeping ten brand-new booktalks in my head. 

I try to read at least a dozen new (or relatively new) YA books a year, and about half of them will inspire me enough to write booktalks.  August and September are my crunch times to read books and write booktalks to get them ready in time for the schools that invite me to visit in the fall.  Right now I’m putting the finishing touches on these booktalks:
Delirium by Lauren Oliver
Trapped by Michael Northrop
iDrakula by Bekka Black

I’m also looking through my shelves to find copies of books that are already in my repertiore, including booktalks I’ve shared here like Bird by Angela Johnson and  Tyranny by Lesley Fairfield.  I always try to order multiple copies of books I like to booktalk so that I’ll have copies on hand, but unfortunately our patrons have a tendency to check out our favorite books at the most inconvenient times.  I wanted to booktalk I Am a Genius of Unspeakable Evil and I Want to Be Your Class President by Josh Lieb next week, but all of my copies are checked out right now.  Oh, well.

So what books have you read lately that might make a good booktalk?  What are some of your favorite books that you recommend to classes over and over again?

A Few Podcast Recommendations For Literature Fans

Since I had a little extra time over this three-day weekend, I thought I’d share some of the podcasts on my iPod that you can use to get reading recommendations and listen to book discussions.  So when you’re not listening to MY podcast, here are a few more that you can enjoy!

Guys Can Read

“A weekly podcast book discussion from a guy’s perspective,” Luke and Kevin have a good dynamic with each other, and their conversations are funny and engaging.  They mostly recommend books for an adult audience, but they also discuss books that were originally written for children and teens.

The H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast
Are you already a fan of H.P. Lovecraft?  Would you like to be?  This podcast combines dramatic readings of Lovecraft’s stories with a discussion by Chris Lackey, Chad Fifer, and their guests.  Chris and Chad are smart and funny, and you’ll spend more time laughing about old horror stories than you might ever imagine. 

Hunger Games Fan Podcast
I’ll assume that unless you’ve been living under a rock you’ve heard of Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy, right?  In this podcast, husband and wife Cliff and Stephanie discuss the Hunger Games books a few chapters at a time.  Right now, they’re part way through the second book, Catching Fire.    They have a lot of enthusiasm about the subject, and are genuinely excited about discussing the books.  This is the only podcast I listen to that’s hosted by a husband and wife team, and there’s definitely a distinctive vibe you get from listening to a married couple’s conversation.  Do you know what I mean?  That mix of love and irritation that married couples have?  You’ll see what I mean when you listen to an episode.

ReadWriteThink – Text Messages: Recommendations For Adolescent Readers
This is an excellent podcast for educators that discusses various themes in adolescent literature, and it includes LOTS of reading recommendations.  That’s the good news.  The bad news is that it’s a monthly podcast.  So that means that each time you hear another wonderful and informative episode, you have to wait for-frickin-EVER for the next one.

Boing Boing Gweek
Okay, to be honest, this podcast doesn’t just talk about books.  It’s a discussion of many geeky things from the brains behind the Boing Boing website (or “neurozine” if you prefer).  Those geeky things include books, movies, TV shows, comics, and more.  So if you’re looking for books that fall into fantasy, science fiction, or other geeky categories, then you can find them here.

Booktalks Quick and Simple
Well, I have to check out the competition, don’t I?  This podcast was being produced every weekday for a while, and then stopped (maybe for summer vacation?)  The emphasis here is on the “quick and simple” aspect; many of these booktalks are less than a minute long.  If you want to get a large sample of different booktalks for different age groups, this will be a very helpful resource.

A Few Quick Updates

Be a Better Booktalker is now officially listed in the Podcast Pickle podcast/vidcast directory!  Woo-Hoo!

Also, I’ve just started creating booklists in the Bibliocommons library catalog.  My first one is called Hilarious Books For Teens, which was a topic I had on the brain after posting those booktalks on Girl, 15, Charming But Insane and King of the Mild Frontier.  I’ll be creating more booklists in the future, and my plan is that most of those lists will be tangentially related to my booktalks.  Which probably means I’ll be putting up a dystopian fiction list in the near future …

A Few More Booktalks For Your Enjoyment

I mentioned in an earlier post that when I was planning ahead and figuring out which booktalks I was going to record for this podcast, that I wouldn’t use any booktalks that I had recorded before.  If you’re interested in hearing those booktalks (or if you can’t stand waiting to hear just one booktalk per week), then I have some good news for you.

When I was a member of The Chronic Rift podcast, I recorded several episodes devoted to teen summer reading, and I presented booktalks in each of these episodes.  You can click the links below to take a trip down memory lane by listening to these episodes on Mevio.  Note: each of these Mevio links will open up a window that will automatically start playing each episode.

TCR Spotlight – Teen Summer Reading 2009 [6/22/09]
Anderson, Laurie Halse – Wintergirls (High School / Eating Disorders)
Giles, Gail – What Happened to Cass McBride? (Middle School / Kidnapping / Mystery & Suspense)
Kindl, Patrice – Goose Chase (CR/YA Crossover / Middle School / Fantasy / Fairy Tales)
Leavitt, Martine – Keturah and Lord Death (Middle School / Fantasy)
Pfeffer, Susan Beth – Life as We Knew It (CR/YA Crossover / Middle School / High School / Science Fiction)
Priestley, Chris – Death and the Arrow (Middle School / Historical Fiction / Mystery & Suspense)
Scott, Elizabeth – Living Dead Girl (High School / Kidnapping / Abuse)
Sleator, William – The Boy Who Couldn’t Die (Middle School / Mystery & Suspense)
Westerfeld, Scott – Uglies (Middle School / High School / Science Fiction / Dystopian Fiction)

TCR Spotlight – Teen Summer Reading 2010 [6/27/10]
McNamee, Graham – Acceleration (Middle School / Mystery & Suspense)
Runyon, Brent – The Burn Journals (Middle School / High School / Nonfiction / Autobiographical / Suicide)
Scott, Elizabeth – Love You Hate You Miss You (High School / Realistic Ficition / Death)
Waters, Daniel – Generation Dead (Middle School / High School / Fantasy / Zombies)
Westerfeld, Scott – Peeps (Middle School / High School / Science Fiction / Horror / Vampires)

Tying Up Loose Ends and Planning Ahead

I’ve hammered out the final details of my CafePress shop.  For any of you out there who are thinking of getting a CafePress shop, my most important piece of advice is to skip the flashy and enticing “Beta” shop option and scroll down to use the “Basic” shop option instead.  They’re both free, but the basic plan will let you customise the shop, taking out the stuff you don’t want (like the clock and the covered box) and adding in the stuff you DO want (like buttons, magnets, and iPhone cases).  I learned the difference between the shops the hard way, and then had to waste a lot of time undoing my mistake.

I finally figured out how to examine my RSS feed using this handy-dandy feed validator but while I think I resolved that godforsaken apostrophe problem, I have two more error messages that I’m still working through.  Actually, I asked the help desk associated with one of the companies I’m working with (I’m not saying which one) to help me fix those error messages and their answer makes me wonder if they even read my question.  In any case, they didn’t answer it and I’m going to have to use a few more sources and a few more brain cells to figure this out.  And on a related note, if you’re enough of a tech head that something like
line 54, column 1: Missing atom:link with rel=”self”
actually makes sense to you (and you can help me fix the damn thing), then please let me know!

Now on to the fun stuff — planning out my booktalks! 

Okay, so, I’m in the process of sorting through all the booktalks I’ve saved over the years, which (unfortunately) I’ve saved in a variety of places.  I have a bunch saved on the hard drive of my computer, with file names referring to age levels.  I also have my more recent booktalks saved in a variety of Google Docs files, which I really need to consolidate.  I group most of my booktalks by middle school level and high school level, and I have some books that I feel comfortable bringing to either group.  Plus, it always helps me to have a few children’s booktalks ready to go just in case I’m asked to pinch-hit in the children’s room. 

In all honesty, whenever I’m going to a school to visit classes, I’ve learned that very often some or even most of the kids in the class are reading below their grade level.  So unless I’m given specific instructions otherwise (like being told I’m only going to be visiting honors classes) I tend to err on the side of caution and pack my suitcase accordingly.  

In terms of which booktalks I’ll be presenting in this podcast, I’m considering a couple of different criteria: 

  • The books should still be in print. 
  • The books should represent a good mix of fiction and nonfiction titles, and a good variety of genres.
  • The booktalks should be ones that I haven’t recorded before.

Having said that, I can tell you that I’ve already picked the first book I’m going to booktalk on this podcast.  I won’t tell you what it is, but I’ll give you a hint:  it’s dystopian.  And no, it’s NOT The Hunger Games.  Don’t get me wrong; I love the whole Hunger Games trilogy, but that series is so popular that I can’t imagine NEEDING to booktalk it.  I’ll be honest here; I’m picking a dystopian book as my first booktalk for this podcast primarily because dystopian literature for teens is such a hot topic right now.  So people who are conducting internet searches for dystopian teen literature are going to come flocking to this podcast and swell our ranks.  And in conclusion, I would like to say … dystopian, dystopian, dystopian, and dystopian. 

Why … thank you, Google!  Look at all our new friends!

Anyway, tune in on Wednesday to hear the booktalk.

Oh, and you might notice that I’m starting to use the “categories” widget over in the sidebar.  I’m not going to apply any categories to posts like these, which don’t contain actual podcast episodes.  But for each post that does contain a podcast, if it’s the first episode of the month I’ll categorize it as “how-to.”  If it’s a booktalk episode I’ll use categories like “older kids”, “middle school”, “high school”, “romance”, “horror”, “historical fiction”, “dystopian”, etc.  That way, it will be easier for new and old listeners to jump right to the episodes that will be most helpful and interesting to them.

Okay, that’s all for now, my dystopian friends.  Talk to you soon!

The BaBB Store is Ready to Go!!!

Well, I don’t know how much of an actual profit I’m going to make with this since I’m probably going to be the store’s biggest customer, but you’re invited to hop on the bandwagon if you’d like.  I tried to pick items of particular interest to librarians and teachers — see what you think!

Be a Better Booktalker CafePress Store

A Little More Progress

Okay, now I’m getting listed in different podcast directories like Podcast Alley.  That’s what this is all about:
<a href=””> My Podcast Alley feed!</a> {pca-87f60ff715455f4d20ff1fcd19a84a14}

(Okay, let’s move on … nothing to see here …)

I also wanted to be listed in the Podcast Pickle directory (Stop giggling, please!)  But it turns out that they won’t list any podcasts with less than 5 episodes, so it will be a few weeks before I can submit my podcast.  Oh, and they also warn against “any malformed RSS feeds.”  Yikes!  So … on a related note, can any of my technical advisors tell me how I can tell if my RSS feed is normal or … MALFORMED?

What else?  Oh, yes, I’m also listed on iTunes now!  Woo-Hoo!

I’m still tweaking things as I go along, but those are a few of my accomplishments so far.

ETA:  Oh, right.  I knew I forgot something!  I’m also in the process of sorting through my music options, by which I mean FREE options for now.  So I’m going through the free music clips from, which is where I found the theme I used for my “An Introduction to Booktalking” episode.  I’m also looking through some open source music options, too.  My tentative plan is to pick two different pieces of music for the show.  One will be a piece (maybe 30 seconds long) to use as the intro/outro for my longer “how-to” episodes.  The other one will be a shorter and quieter piece (maybe 10 seconds long) that I can use as a music bed under my voice as I introduce myself and the show before each booktalk in the rest of the episodes.  If you have any advice on music sources, or leads on musicians who would be willing to let their music be used for free in exchange for a mention on a podcast, I would really appreciate it.

ETA:  I am currently in the process of creating a Cafe Press store.  Oh, hush.  I needed a new coffee mug anyway!

A Fairly Productive 3-Day Weekend

Well, for starters, I set up this new-and-improved using Quick Blogcast and then deleted the temporary blog I’d set up at  Where there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth.  Yes, I know that my original plan was to set up an actual website kinda-sorta from scratch, but when I tried to do that I got so bogged down in the process that the room started to spin.  If I’d graduated from library school recently (like one of my colleagues who also happens to be one of my technical consultants) instead of over a decade ago, I would be a lot more familiar with the process of setting up a website, but as it is I didn’t learn how to do it in school and I’ve never had occasion to do it for any other reason before now.  Frankly, I found the whole process bewildering.  Then I realized that since I already had a domain name registered with GoDaddy it might behoove me to check out their products, and since I wanted to create a podcast and needed a blog to go with it, this was the best choice for me.

I’ve sent my podcast’s RSS feed to iTunes for approval, and am waiting to hear back.  Perhaps I should get around to recording my first episode, already, to get some more professional content in the pipeline.  Um … an RSS feed works like a pipeline, right?

I listed this site through the major search engines through the “search engine visibility” program, which was an eye-opening process.  There was the part where I made my keyword suggestions for this site, and then I got the generated list of the keywords that the program suggested.  There was some overlap — the program approved of my choices of words like “librarians” and “literacy.”  The program was bewildered by my choice of “booktalk / booktalker / booktalking,” but I was able to manually list those anyway.  The program also came up with suggestions of its own that it thought might help me generate web traffic, like (I kid you not) “hot librarian.”  And no, I’m afraid that I did not take them up on that suggestion.

I am now re-reading Podcast Solutions by Michael W. Geoghegan and Dan Klass.  And by “re-reading” I mean “paying attention to the chapters I skipped over the last time I read it because I didn’t need to know all of that technical behind-the scenes stuff.”  I have some more podcast-related books on hold, which will hopefully be arriving this week.

I checked out Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 from the library and watched it last night so that I would have that movie more firmly in my head when I went to see part 2 in July.

I am almost but not quite finished reading the second book in Rick Riordan’s Kane Chronicles series, The Throne of Fire.  Since it’s due back tomorrow and there are a few hundred people waiting for it, I need to finish that up ASAP.

Still to do:
Find some “podsafe” music that I can use for the intros and outros of my podcast episodes.
Figure out how to take the music I pick and blend it in to my recordings.
Write my first “official” episode and then record it so that it sounds halfway professional.
Figure out which books I’m going to booktalk in future episodes.
Get my podcast listed through some of the major podcast directories.
Consider monetizing options that aren’t too obnoxious.  Be a Better Better Booktalker coffee mugs, anyone?