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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: discussion, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. Q&A-Negative Portrayals

Hello! Today, we're discussing negative portrayals of the queer community, ie h
ow it has been shown badly, and  how some of it isn't shown at all.

Do you think any part of the LGBTQIA gets overlooked/subject to erasure?

Suzanne: Hm... Having not read all of the LGBTQIA books available, this is impossible to answer. I'm sure there are aspects that are not as well examined as others. Perhaps it's more about a lack of balance, where most stories tend to focus on the discovery of sexuality and the coming out process, especially in teen fiction.

James: I think trans characters are very overlooked. I wonder, at this stage, if writers feel any book with trans characters would have to be ABOUT being trans. I think authors worry both about getting it right and angry internet people.

Ria: Absolutely. Asexuals and agendered people get overlooked all the time. That's been slowly changing, and work is being done to legitimize those identities, but if a positive gay role model is rare in teen fiction, then a positive asexual or agendered role model is rarer still. I can think of only 1 single asexual character in teen fiction (at least none where their asexuality isn't explained away as being due to religion or trauma), and I can't think of any agendered characters.

Alfie: Yep. Our actual thought processes, not being accepted by everyone. It generally tends to be shoved to the side in favour of ""WOO LESBIAN SECKS And while I have no problem with sex in fiction, don't use an LGBTQIA character for the pure sexual aspect of it."

Zoë: My personal feeling is that transgender and genderfluid/genderqueer kids are getting a bum deal right now. For some reason gender binaries seem to have become a bit of a frontier in the portrayal of non-hetero characters. People who seem perfectly fine with a mainstream portrayal of gay and lesbian characters will get squirmy over the idea that gender in our culture is a largely artificial construct (there is no pink gene on the X-chromosome, dammit!). But I also think that bi/pansexual kids and asexual kids aren't seeing the representation they need, either. Like I said above, we still have a long way to go.

Rie: Intersex and Asexual, both seem to be completely ignored.

Sean: That depends on the whims of the editor.

Caitlin: I'd say LGBT gets a lot more coverage than the QIA side, maybe because people feel more comfortable writing about it? Maybe I just haven't been reading the right books? This is why I am very much looking forward to your event, Nina!

Megan: I think gay/lesbian/bisexual gets covered quite a lot.  Definitely more than before.  The others...  Not as much really.  That I know of, anyway.

Charlie : I cannot name a book that features an asexual character, except maybe Struck By Lightning by Chris Colfer (Carson Philips has an intellectual crush on Rachel Maddow, but is otherwise more interested in pursuing his career.)

Illjolras: Anything but gay, white, cismen or lesbian, white, cis women. Writers act like there's no such thing as bisexual, nonbinary, asexuals, pansexuals,trans*, more than one way to be lesbian etc.

Have you ever had issues with the way LGBTQIA characters (in general or in a particular book) have been presented?
Suzanne: Not really because I'm quite picky when it comes to what I read. I have been mildly annoyed by certain gay characters being presented as super emotional to the point of melodrama as this is borderline stereotyping. I'm also saddened by books where the futuristic world is shown as open and accepting, even encouraging, of same-sex couples and yet, the main character remains hetero and only ever engages in a hetero relationship despite almost every other character around her being bi or homosexual.
Me: I don’t like the fact that LGB peoples’ sexualities are, unless they’re the main character, often their defining feature.

Ria: Mostly in that books involving LGBTQIA characters often completely centre around the character's sexuality, giving the impression that that's all there really is to someone. I won't deny that seeking validation and acceptance is a big part of coming to grips with your own identity, especially when you've got bigots bellowing at you that you're wrong for being who you are. But that isn't the only thing that matters. And currently, most fiction doesn't express that well. A single issue has been focused on to the exclusion of so much else, and it does some people a disservice.

Alfie: I can't think of any specific books presently, but it's generally the points I outlined previously.

Rie: The Immortals series by Alyson Noel has one of the most stereotypical gay characters I have ever read.

Ashley: I do think there has been a lot of stereotyping, but from shows I've watched with gay characters, I think they've mostly always been presented well.


Caitlin: Not that I can think of off the top of my head no. Which, I guess, is a good thing?

Megan: "I feel sometimes guy-friends are made gay to support a plotline: like, their sexuality is just a convenient way of getting rid of a love triangle, rather than the boy feeling actually like they are real. 
Also there can be stereotypes, as mentioned earlier, and I hate this."

Charlie: Yes, I think sometimes writers have one viewpoint they are trying to put forward and they forget to look at the bigger picture. If characters are casual insulting other marginalised people in the LGBTQIA spectrum who might be reading the books, then that is counterproductive (unless their prejudices are part of the narrative intent.)

Illjolras:Yes, plenty of times. The gay best friend trope is so over used and so easily ruined.

Harriet: no, not at all.

So...a wide range of answers for the second question, a smaller one for the first. What are your opinions on these topics? 

2 Comments on Q&A-Negative Portrayals, last added: 9/12/2013
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2. Q&A-The Writers' Edition

Hello! For today's  Q&A for Rainbow Reads, it's the invasion of the writers!. Ok, you’ll have seen some of these answers already from them being posted in their own interview, but I put everyone’s answers  in the collection of answers and I don’t have the patience to go throug
h them. Anyway, I think it’s good you’ve got everyone’s answers in one place.

How do you avoid sterotypes when writing?
Suzanne: I try to be as authentic as possible in my characterization. I'm quite an odd person and have had the privilege and delight of interacting and befriending many colourful characters throughout my life that do not conform to stereotypes. Drawing from these experiences and being conscious of how stereotypes are used in fiction, has helped me to avoid them. I like to buck expectations so every time I've got characters that need to behave a certain way, I try to put less likely individuals into those roles.
Daniel: Being gay, bi, straight, or anything in between, shouldn’t define the character, it should just be another part to them. Every character should be their own individual, regardless of their sexuality and whether or not they fit any of the stereotypes. For that reason, sexuality is the last thing I decide when creating my characters.
Zoë: Stereotypes are basically a result of a lack of knowledge. They're a product of only having One Story about what gay or transgender or genderfluid means; the fact that really no one in our culture gets a fair and nuanced representation in media apart from straight, white, cis-gendered, able-bodied males. So the first step in avoiding stereotypes and one dimensional or offensive portrayals is to learn. Read books, watch films, seek out TV programmes that portray all kinds of different QUILTBAG people doing all kinds of different things, like falling in love, conquering strange planets, solving crimes, making funny YouTube videos. Seek out and join groups that seek to promote allyship among different groups. Talk to people in real life and online. *See* people. See people as people first and whatever other labels are attached to them later, not even second, but way down the list after their taste in books and whether they're, you know, annoying or maybe a Linkin' Park fan...
Illjolras: I just write them as people, not a serious of boxes that need ticking to make up a queer character.
Charlie: Research, ask people, think.
Sean: I think avoiding stereotypes is something authors try to do but it's very hard unless you've walked a mile in someone's shoes.

Ashley: While writing my two main characters in "A Melody in Harmony," I completely stayed away from stereotyping and it was easy. I didn't think of the characters as "two gay men," I thought of them as two young men in a relationship and just like any other couple.
Ria: It's hard. I kind of believe that some stereotypes exist for a reason. Not in that every gay male is flaming, for example, but let's be honest -- some are. So if I write a character who's like that, it comes across as me believing that every gay male acts that way, when that's a skewed perception. So it's very difficult. It's almost gotten to the point where the opposite of many stereotypes have become stereotypes in themselves (e.g., the gay jock as a contrast to the effeminate man). The only thing I can do is write the characters as they come to me, try to be fair and balanced in my presentation, and hope for the best.

Do you feel you accurately represent LGBTQIA people in your writing?
Ria: I feel that I'm doing it as accurately as I can, based on my own personal experience. But then again, I'm sure people who are badly representing LBTQIA characters feel the exact same way - writers don't set out to write badly."
Ashley: I hope I do. It's all about love. Writing the love my two main characters share, I think I did it justice.
Sean: Not yet I don't as I haven't written one. Actually scratch that, I am .. but it's not supernatural
Illjolras: I feel like yes, but that's because I am queer.
Suzanne: I accurately represent the characters I'm creating and try to be as authentic as possible in those representations. I don't try to represent any subgroup, be that race, religion or sexual identity. Some of my characters might accurately represent LGBTQIA people, others might not simply because they're oddities themselves and that's okay because diversity in real life is something to celebrate.
Zoë: I feel that I do. I hope that I do. I'm not sure how 'accurate' is really defined though. It's not like... I don't know, say, 'accuracy' in your depiction of playing the violin. If you show someone doing it with a hammer rather than a bow, you've got it wrong. I don't think there's a right or a wrong answer if you're presenting readers with what are hopefully complex, fully-realised characters. I'm mostly concerned with making readers love the characters I want them to love, hate the characters that I want them to hate, and with making all my characters seem like evolving people. I do try to be aware of stereotypical or negative portrayals of marginalised groups in the media so that I can avoid adding to them,

Have you ever gotten homophobic, transphobic or otherwise negative reactions regarding your inclusion of LGBTQIA characters? How did you deal with it?
James: I honestly haven't had any negative feedback about Kitty and Delilah. Ryan, in Cruel Summer, is the main character so it'll be interesting to see what reaction he gets. Personally I've had homophobic messages on my Facebook fan page - I suppose given how open I am about my sexuality it was only a matter of time. Rest assured, I won't be deterred.
Laura:  So far, there's been no homophobic outcry in response to Pantomime, and I think that's surprised some people. Though I might have gone and jinxed myself now by saying that. In fact, the only controversy has been some people wishing the blurb was more open about the intersex nature of the protagonist. I think that's great.
Suzanne: No, thankfully. What I have noticed, which serious irked me, is that some reviewers put 'warnings' on their reviews for LGBT content. They didn't warn people that my book contained bad language, violence, underage drinking, or depictions of self-harm and suicide. No, the big bad thing about my book was the LGBT content which included an alluded to blowjob and some kissing. This offended me. I wanted to edit every single review I'd ever written and put 'WARNING: Main character is straight. Avoid if that's not your thing* - See how ridiculous that looks? So why 'warn' people of LGBT content? I really thought we'd be past this by now.
Illjolras: Someone said I was trying too hard to be diverse when a story I wrote had very few straight characters. I said 'so?'
Ashley: "A Melody in Harmony" is brand new, so I haven't yet, but a lot of the bigotry and homophobic remarks that appear in my novel are actually things that I have witnessed in real life. I decided to take the hate and ignorance and bigotry that I've seen and put it into my story, which I think makes it all the more realistic.
Ria: Most of what I write hasn't seen public eye. But what little has has generally been well-received. I'm lucky in that regard. I have, however, received negative reactions based on my own identity when it comes to sexuality and gender expression. I don't delude myself into thinking that people will avoid negative comments on what I write when they won't avoid it on what I am.
Zoë: Apart from a couple of reviews on blogs or Goodreads (which did make me fuming mad, but obviously weren't directed at *me*), no. I thought that I would, and braced myself for it, but it hasn't happened yet. I think that, in a way, being a midlist author with a quite small but devoted group of readers is an advantage in that way.

Yet another set of fantastic answers from a wide range of authors. As always, please comment with your thoughts and remember our multiple giveaways. 

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3. Q&A-Main Characters vs Secondary Characters in LGBT fiction

Hello people! Continuing with the discussion on presentation, I asked people

Do you think LGBTQIA characters are presented as well as they are when they are main characters, when they are secondary characters?

Here are their responses.

Suzanne: Main characters tend to be more three dimensional and more fleshed out just because they're main characters and the author takes more time getting into their head and presenting their various traits to the reader. From what I've read, LGBTQIA main characters are treated better and are less inclined towards stereotype than secondary characters that often conform to a certain archetype or simply fulfill a role required for the trope.

Ria: When they happen, I think they can happen well. But they're not as likely to happen. It's far more common to see a straight protagist with a gay best friend and sidekick, for example, than it is to see a gay protagonist.

LH: There's a difficulty in using sexuality as a defining character for a secondary character, because due to their 'secondary' status, that's all the time they have to make an impact. I do think though that with the shift in children's / YA literature over these past few year, you've got more and more authors writing with an increased awareness of what they're doing and what they're creating and that can only be a good thing.

Alfie: Too much emphasis is put on the sexual aspect of the characters.

Rie: No, usually when they are main characters they are portrayed in a realistic fashion. When they are secondary characters they are a joke, a plot device, or a stereotypical version of themselves.

Sean: Again, that depends on how familiar the author is with his/her subject matter.

M: I don't think I've read a teen novel where they are main characters (though I know these books exist).

Caitlin: I'd like to think so. Most of the recent books I've read have featured them more as secondary characters. I just like my characters to be well-rounded regardless of whether they are main or secondary, and being LGBTQIA features as part of that.

Megan: I think so.  Normally, anyway.  Except for when the secondary character is a guy and the lead character is a girl and the boy is gay.   Then it seems like it's just making the best friend gay to avoid a love triangle, something I think is wrong...

Charlie M: No, unfortunately some times they are more stereotypical. However in Cassandra Clare's Mortal Instruments series, Bane is particularly well represented and appears initially as a secondary character. Authors should take care to make their secondary characters well rounded individuals, or have editors pick up on stereotyping.

Illjolras: No, their usually very exploitative, act like conforming to some stereotypes is bad, and almost tries to downplay the character's queerness.

Harriet: "Every character is presented in a different way, it doesn't matter if they are first or second characters.
In any novel, the protagonists of the story normally get the lime light, because you're following their story. If it was a book about the second character, they'll automatically become the protagonist of the story.
If the protagonist of the story is LGBTQIA then more detail will be put into their character. If the protagonist is not a LGBTQIA, then their character will have an equal amount of detail, as well. However if the LGBTQIA person is the second character, naturally there will less effort put into making and developing that character, unless you're going to continue the story as a series and have a book from the LGBTQIA point of view - thus you'll have a LGBTQIA protagonist and it goes back to what I was saying before."

A great range of answers from everyone. Please add your comments below, and remember that each comment is an extra entry in the giveaway.
Also, because this is a short post, you'll get another short post later.

0 Comments on Q&A-Main Characters vs Secondary Characters in LGBT fiction as of 9/7/2013 7:07:00 AM
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4. Q&A- Stereotypes in LGBTQIA fiction

So. Yes. Question and answer time, because fabulous people answered so well that their answers won’t fit in with my posts. These posts are only edited for spelling and profanity, otherwise, these are exactly what people think. Please share your comments, and remember you could win some awesome books!

Today’s question: How prevalent are stereotypes in LGBTQIA fiction?

Suzanne: In general? I think many gay characters have, in the past, been token sidekicks, like the gay best friend who makes a great shopping partner and helps the female lead pick shoes for a date. I think fiction has also had the tendency to present LGBTQIA characters as confused and intrinsically unhappy in life. I've also seen lesbians portrayed as man haters, as women hurt or abused and therefore turned off men, instead of these women simply loving other women. Time and again, I've seen gay, lesbian and bi characters presented as promiscuous, more promiscuous than straight people, which is just ridiculous.

Harriet:"In my opinion, the term 'stereotype' belongs as a cheat code to describe what something or a type of group is like. For example, if I were to say 'Goth', we'd all get an image of a person dressed all in black, with black make-up on and sat in a dark corner (and so forth.)
Stereotypes belong because the human race (generalising) ignore the fact that they can describe each person as being different and not in a sub group.
We also only use stereotypes because it is easier to identify the character and portray them.
You can look on at the term as a cheat code or a derogatory word, either choice we all know that everyone knows that not everyone is like their stereotype.
I believe, because I have this opinion, that others have this opinion too.
Now, I haven't read every LGBTQIA fiction under the sun but I do believe that not everyone is going to portray a character the same. Therefore, stereotypes are prevalent."

Illjolras:"Very. Usually the side characters are gay, and if that's so, they're very camp and flamboyant. If it's a main POV character, they are always closeted until they fall for just that /one/ person."

Charlie M: I think some stereotypes are prevalent, but am hesitant to say that those stereotypes shouldn't be represented (theatrical gay guys exist after all). But there should be MORE fiction that contains a variety of personality types and interests. Sexuality shouldn't define those interests or restrict them.

Megan: "I think we're definitely going away from the stereotypes now - not all gay men are overly feminine and not all lesbians are 'butch' or whatever.  Something I think is stupid: it's not like all people who are LGBTQIA are the same person - they don't all have the same, stereotyped personalities and likes!  Everyone avoids stereotypes when writing heterosexual people so why don't they do the same when they're writing gay people?!
Sorry for the rant.  It annoys me when people judge.
Anyway, my point is that we're getting away from stereotypes.  Now LGBTQIA are 'normal' - unique and their own person, rather than a bunch of stupid stereotypes."

Caitlin: I honestly couldn't say, I guess, when you have people writing about them who don't really know...there might be some stereotypes? But then, there are always stereotypes in fiction? Most of the things I've read I wouldn't class as being stereotypical.

M: Not sure because I don't go out of my way to read this. I avoid 'romance' as a genre and this might be where they pop up in storylines? But, I have noticed that LGetc. characters pop up more in current teen fiction than when I was younger, albeit as secondary (or even tertiary) characters.

Sean: I suspect the stereotypes are quite real because some authors aren't intimately involved in the reality of life for LGBTQIA teens.

Rie: Very. Every time I read a secondary character that is gay they are always as flamboyant as can be. It's become an immediate groan when they introduce gay characters.

Alfie: Very prevalent in shi-- sorry, worse books, but after all, they are the bad books. Unfortunately, most LGBTQIA fiction is badly written, because it's often very badly-written smut. Or at least, what I've been exposed to has been badly-written smut.

Ria: Hard to say. Less prevalent than years ago, as greater exposure and media coverage doesn't allow for blatant negative stereotyping as much anymore. That being said, we're not completely free of stereotypes, partly because the stereotypes are so numerous in themselves, and partly because some writers aren't quite sure how to not write a stereotype.

You can see (mostly) my thoughts on the matter here, but they’re essentially that the camp stereotype is overplayed,   but we’re getting better and more varied representation now. What are your thoughts on the matter? 

1 Comments on Q&A- Stereotypes in LGBTQIA fiction, last added: 9/6/2013
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5. Discussion post: Presentation of LGB characters

Hello and welcome to the first of our discussion posts. I thought a lot
 about how to present this, but in the end, I settled on raising a question/topic, giving my thoughts, and quoting other people as we go along, when they fit. Then, there’ll be a Q&A post, with everybody’s response to the questions I set, with no comment from me. I hope this format gets across everybody's views, and interests you.

So, the first one is about how LGB people are currently presented in YA lit. 

Stereotypes are everywhere, and this is true for every demographic of everything.  They’re set in people’s minds, and it’s really hard to avoid them. TV Tropes has a lot of lists of tropes, or conventions, revolving around the LGBTQ community in general and bisexualityand gender bending. A quick look over, I’d guess that about a third of these are very common stereotypes, in general or in YA literature.

I asked about bad presentations of LGBT people in literature. I’m really glad that most people couldn’t think of specific examples, because it means that there can’t be that many in prominent literature. Of course, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t some, because there almost certainly will be, but still. 

There are some certain stereotypes that come through particularly. Suzanne says “I have been mildly annoyed by certain gay characters being presented as super emotional to the point of melodrama as this is borderline stereotyping.” Charlie says “Usually the side characters are gay, and if that's so, they're very camp and flamboyant. If it's a main POV character, they are always closeted until they fall for just that one  person. The gay best friend trope is so over used and so easily ruined.” I’ve seen a couple of times in teen fiction the “all gays are promiscuous” , but the one I see most is the “camp best friend” one.

The thing that often gets me when reading LGB fic is that sexuality is the one of the  first things presented about a character. In very explicit terms. For example, Boy Meets Boy, there’s chapter 2 which says “Paul is definitely gay”, and then in other books  that I don’t have to hand there’s things to that effect. And I don’t mind that so much, but the fact that it’s presented as a defining thing. Sexuality does not define a person. I’m sure for any character introduced this way, you can find a much more interesting thing about them than the gender of who they fall in love with.

That presenting first of sexuality, I find, comes across mainly when the person in question is a  secondary character (by secondary, I mean not the main one, nor the POV).  I get that secondary characters don’t need quite the detail of a main one, but my thoughts are put  nicely by Rie as “usually when they are main characters they are portrayed in a realistic fashion. When they are secondary characters they are a joke, a plot device, or a stereotypical version of themselves.”

Overall, whether a character is main or secondary, sexuality is often one of the facets of them that is most focused on. I understand the reasoning for this when a book is generally about this, ie a coming out story, but for when it isn’t the plot, I don’t see why. Luckily, we’re moving away from this slightly, and I hope representation will continue to improve in the future. 

1 Comments on Discussion post: Presentation of LGB characters, last added: 9/6/2013
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6. Agreeing to Disagree

I had an odd moment yesterday when reading a couple of posts on a national listserv.  Someone had originally asked for ideas on improving a library service. The poster finished the inquiry with the phrase "All ideas are welcome".  However, when someone replied with an idea, the original poster stated that she very much disagreed with the idea. It was a jarring realization for me - perhaps all ideas were not welcome.

It struck me that this is the kind of reply that shuts down ideas, that says thanks for the input- but not really.  If I had an idea to contribute, would my opinion be welcomed....or disrespected? I definitely felt a strong urge to keep my ideas to myself on this issue. Who needs to be put in their place after four months or forty years in the business?

This is by no means the first time I have seen this behavior. You name the issue in librarianship and you know a few people are going to wade in, say their piece (on any and all sides of an issue), lob a few bombs and shut down discussion.  Others shy away from saying anything lest they be branded a less-than-true believer or flaming the fan of disagreement even further.  The bomber has accomplished something that, in most cases, I hope they didn't mean to do - they have effectively  shut down discourse.

The townhall of listservs, groups, online discussions and comments seems to be more and more a place where one gets to state their opinion and then re-state and re-state it and re-state it. Each time a particular topic comes up that someone disagrees with vehemently, he or she feels duty-bound to wade in and state for the record just how wrong-headed the idea, approach or opinion is. Reasoned discourse devolves into "This is my opinion and if you don't like it, bite it." or "I have the research, so shaddup." or "Lots of people feel/think/believe the same way I do, which proves me correct."

We all have strongly held opinions - both personal and professional. We would be less than human if we didn't. And what a boring world if we all believed exactly the same thing! It strikes me that innovation would simply stop if we didn't have the constant give-and-take of divergent opinions to push us to new solutions and heights.

How we express our opinions dictates whether we will brook no disagreement or are willing to evolve, change and learn from the discourse engendered by our expressions and inquiries.  When I work with students, respect and reasoned discourse is the guide by which we agree to disagree. Once we hit the work world, spats and tantrums must be left behind.  Learning to elevate opinion and conversation into a respectful space takes patience, wisdom and smarts.

While I certainly own to being less than perfect in expressing my opinions and honoring those of other people, perhaps there are a few ways we might all navigate better when asking for input and honoring what we receive. Let's think of it as bringing some civility to our professional-level discourse - welcoming, listening to and absorbing divergent viewpoints without disrespecting opinions or ideas that are diametrically opposed to our own.

Strangely or not so much so, I am guided by the best set of book discussion guidelines ever. The CCBC (Cooperative Children's Book Center in Madison WI) developed these to help people speak and listen actively and intelligently. Book discussion committees that use these guidelines have an amazing experience when discussing books.

So let's look at these and see if there are ways we can use some of these suggestions to do a better job of respecting each other while expressing our firmly held beliefs. Try substituting the word "issue" for "book" in the Guidelines and see what we get:

CCBC Book Discussion Guidelines
Ginny Moore Kruse and Kathleen T. Horning
© 1989 Cooperative Children's Book Center
Look at each book (issue) for what it is, rather than what it is not.
  1. Make positive comments first. Try to express what you liked about the book (issue) and why. (e.g. "The illustrations are a perfect match for the story because....")

  2. After everyone has had the opportunity to say what they appreciated about the book, you may talk about difficulties you had with a particular aspect of the book (issue). Try to express difficulties as questions, rather than declarative judgments on the book (issue) as a whole. (e.g. "Would Max's dinner really have still been warm?" rather than "That would never happen.")

  3. Avoid recapping the story or booktalking the book (issue). There is not time for a summary.

  4. Refrain from relating personal anecdotes. The discussion must focus on the book (issue) at hand.

  5. Try to compare the book (issue) with others on the discussion list, rather than other books by the same author or other books in your experience.
All perspectives and vocabularies are correct. There is no "right" answer or single correct response.
  1. Listen openly to what is said, rather than who says it.

  2. Respond to the comments of others, rather than merely waiting for an opportunity to share your comments.

  3. Talk with each other, rather than to the discussion facilitator.

  4. Comment to the group as a whole, rather than to someone seated near you.
Sometimes, it's also ok to accept an idea or opinion without responding to state a disagreement. Our opinion isn't changed but no response also honors the fact that the other person has a right to theirs. Learning to express our views with an eye towards engendering discussion often involves phrases like, "While I appreciate what you are saying, I wonder whether..." or "I hear what you're saying, but my hesitation lies in....". It opens up communication and creates a safe space to express and share.

I wonder if we might commit to be more open, less combative and elevate our discussions with each other? Can we honor the ideas others share while tactfully expressing our own and even learning to moderate our opinions based on what we hear? Can we put down our arms and learn to disagree in a collegial way? As Eli Mina, the ALA Council parliamentarian, suggests in Council when tempers begin to flare and back-and-forthing detours councilors from the larger issues of working towards solutions: Let us return to the balcony in this discussion rather than staying on the floor. I wonder if we can do this more?

I don't know, you tell me.

Image courtesy of Pixabay

4 Comments on Agreeing to Disagree, last added: 5/7/2013
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7. Up For Discussion- Feeling Bad For Reading What You Enjoy

Yesterday, I saw a link to an article (source: Dear Author) that really got me thinking.  Brenna Clarke Gray, a teacher, wrote an article for Huffington Post calling for readers to stop apologizing for reading what they like. I love what she has to say on the matter:

You should not apologize for what you like to read. The person you are apologizing to can only fit into one of three categories:

1. He or she shares your joy.
2. He or she doesn’t give a good goddamn.
3. He or she thinks less of you for what you read in which case don’t apologize to that person because he or she is clearly a douchebag who doesn’t deserve your obeisance.

Number 1 requires no apology. Number 2 requires no apology. Number 3 neither requires nor deserves! an apology.

So what, then, do you do when someone you respect or even admire, mocks your choice of reading material?  The first time I really felt bad about what I read was in my 9th grade lit class.  We had a list of required reading for the semester, and in addition, we were to read additional books of our choice.  See that last bit?  Of our choice. At that time, I devoured Harlequins, fantasy, and sci-fi.  That’s it.  That’s pretty much all I read.  Back then, I read even more voraciously than I do now. I didn’t have a 60+ hour a week job, no puppies, no ponies, no responsibilities.  I lived for my mid-week trip to the local bookstores with my mom, where I would snap up the latest releases from my favorite authors.  I was looking forward to that class, because I loved to read, and I figured it would be an easy A.

Imagine my surprise when the teacher showed distain for my book selections.  She wrote condescending little notes at the top of my papers that I shouldn’t waste my time reading such tripe.  I was embarrassed.  Then I was pissed.  I read more books than 99% of the population, and this lady was going to make fun of what I read? I am a person who tries to avoid confrontations, and back when I was younger, I was so shy that I rarely spoke in class.  So after stewing about those nasty notes, I decided to alter my choice of reading material.  Good-bye, tame Harlequins, I would not be reading you for this class.  Hello, John Norman, you naughty creator of GOR.  You , I will read.  And Sharon Green?  Hello, Terrilian series and Jalav, Amazon Warrior series.  Yes, I will read you, too, because I know that the teacher will hate you all. (She did, but I still got an A)

I was fortunate that my mom encouraged my reading, and she didn’t really care what I read.  This made it even more puzzling that a stranger would feel the need to show disapproval of what I read.  I thought that the goal of the class was to encourage reading.  My bad.

Today, I don’t care what people think of my choice of books.  If they think that I am wasting my time reading about zombies or unicorns or fluffy pink bunnies, whatever.  Those are not the people I choose to spend my time or energy on.  I continually strive to make new connections with people who enjoy reading, without passing judgment, and those are the people I will try to form friendships with.

Has anybody ever made fun of what you read?  What did you do about it?

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8. Act 1: Lists and Discussions

I am hard at work on Act 1 of a new story that I am jokingly calling SHARKS.
I have roughly plotted out the story for Acts 1-3, and am now getting serious about Act 1, using two strategies:

Lists Help Me Plot

Creating lists is a helpful way for me to explore possible scenes and remind myself what needs to be included. My first list is a rough idea of the scenes that need to be included in the first act.
I need a scene that:

  • captures interest, while introducing the setting and main characters, A and B
  • sets up a minor conflict, a sort of running gag
  • A meets C and the result is joining a club
  • Club meeting
  • set up another subplot, one with parents
  • Club goes on outing which reveals a global danger to A
  • A and B try to warn someone about the danger, but are rebuffed
  • A and B are determined to save the world, even if the world doesn’t want to be saved

Does this list seem unfocused and boring to you? It does to me. But it’s a start. These ARE the scenes that I need, but I need to inject conflict and put more at stake in each one. And listing is a help here, too.

Scene 1: Introduce A and B and the outcome is that they don’t like each other.

A good opening strategy is to introduce two characters with a minor conflict that creates a distance between them. I know these guys must work together closely, which means they can’t get along smoothly, there must be conflict. OK. What sort of conflict? For me, that can depend greatly on setting. So, I create a list of possible settings; the general setting is Seattle and Puget Sound, but I need to know a specific setting for a scene, which is grounded in a particular place with particular actions.

  • Coffee shop
  • School
  • Beach
  • On a ferry
  • Bike rental shop

Discussions with Myself Help Me Plot

Which brings me to the second strategy, and that is a discussion with myself about these options. Some of this is internal, but some of it is actually typing the conversation with myself. How do I know what I think until I write it?

Here’s an example of what I might write to myself:

I’m thinking the coffee shop is a good idea. A comes in and B is working there.
Immediate questions: How old is A? Is this a MG or a YA? If a MG, can he be wondering around on his own and ordering 5 cups of coffee? Teen, yes. 12 yo? Not so sure. This story isn’t YA, though, so it needs to be definitely MG. So the coffee shop must be very close to his grandparent’s house. And he’ll need a steady income, an allowance or something, or he can’t buy that much coffee.

If I use the coffee shop for the opening scene, it is 3 blocks from A’s grandparent’s house; he gets a generous allowance from his parents (Dad is Dr., mom is ambassador, so they can afford this). His first week in the Seattle area, it is plausible for him to become so enamored with coffee that he orders five cups in one morning; that also set up conflict with grandparents for later because he will be wide awake all night. The time change from his move, combined with caffeine could heat things up. I like this possible cause-effect relationship between scenes.

On the other hand, do I want school scenes or not? If so, I need to introduce it early: which is more important to the overall story, a coffee shop or a school yard. Can I reuse the coffee obsession later and have the coffee shop come back? Maybe the “club” meeting can take place in

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9. Book Blogger Confessions–Managing Deadlines



Book Blogger Confessions is a newish meme hosted by Tiger’s All Consuming Media or For What It’s Worth.   On the 1st and 3rd Monday of every month they discuss a topic that effects book bloggers and then give other bloggers a chance to vent, share their opinion, or offer a solution.

If you want to participate just grab their button and include it in your post with a link to either Tiger’s All Consuming Media or For What It’s Worth.   They will be providing a linky at the end of their posts so people can "hop" to see all the participants answers.

Today’s topic is:  Deadlines for reviewing and blogging. Do you set them? How do you keep them? What do you do if you can’t meet a deadline?

This is something I struggle with all the time!  Deadlines!  They stress me out!  I find it amusing that even though I hate being under pressure and having to meet deadlines, it is such a huge part of my book hobby.  That just doesn’t seem right, now, does it?

Here’s how I deal with those deadlines, which can dangle over my head like the Sword of Damocles.  I have a daily planner just for blogging.  I have tried to keep one online with Google Calendar, but I just can’t seem to make a virtual calendar work for me.  I mark down the dates of firm deadlines, and then I keep a sheet, updated weekly on Saturday, of looming deadlines.  Interview post dates don’t stress me out like review commitments.  I love reading author responses to my interview questions, and have a lot of fun with these posts, so they are easier to deal with.

Now reading and reviewing can cause a lot of apprehension.  I try not to make many firm commitments for book reviews.  When I am feeling pressured, I don’t enjoy reading as much.  I don’t enjoy blogging as much.  I can’t find my blogging mojo, and during those times, there are fewer reviews on the site.  Maybe Real Life is intruding, and I just don’t have the time or the attention span to write that review.  That’s never a good thing, so I keep my schedule for book reviews more flexible and fluid.

My biggest piece of advice to new bloggers: don’t over commit.  Blogging will quickly become a chore, and you won’t have fun doing it.  If you don’t have fun doing it, you will quickly stop blogging altogether.  Work out a schedule that works for you.  I work long hours to pay the bills, so reviewing and blogging activities happen mainly on the weekend.  I squeeze in as much reading as I can after work during the week, but some nights I am so tired that I actually fall asleep with a book propped up in my hands.  This tends to scare to crap out of me when I drop the book I was reading when I doze off.  Oops!

Set realistic goals for yourself, too.  I tend to be to a bit overly optimistic with how many books I can read in a month, but by posting a projected reading list at the start of each month, I feel that I at least have a plan to work with, and I work better with a plan.  I don’t beat myself up when I can’t get everything read, but at least I have a goal to work toward.  So setting goals for yourself that are realistic, and not over committing will keep your blog a more enjoyable activity.  If you lose the mojo, take a break.  Step away from your blog.  Take a deep breath.  This is supposed to be fun!

How do you manage your deadlines?  Leave links and share.

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10. 5 Tips on How to Write Smart Thrillers

A ThrillerFest panel last week tackled this question: “Can a thriller be both exciting and smart?” Participants included authors Linwood Barclay, Joseph Finder, Kathleen George, Andrew Gross, Andrew Pyper and Matt Richtel. David Liss moderated the panel.

During the discussion, the participants picked Dennis LeHane‘s Shutter Island, Joseph Conrad‘s Heart of Darkness, and William Landay‘s upcoming Defending Jacob as their favorite smart thrillers.

Below, we’ve included five tips for writing smart thrillers from the discussion.


New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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11. Writers to Discuss Borrowed Voices & Stolen Stories

Tonight, the Walls and Bridges Festival will end with a discussion event at FIAF entitled “The Original Copy: Borrowed Voices and Stolen Stories.” Chris Lehmann of Bookforum will moderate a panel of four authors which include Yannick HaenelLaurent NunezVictoria Patterson, and Siva Vaidhyanathan.

Here’s more about the event: “It’ll tackle the topic of the tension inherent in borrowing (a plot, a style, or the entire library of written works) for one’s own use.  It features French authors never before accessible to American audiences who are experimenting in their fiction, plus Americans Victoria Patterson and Siva Vaidhyanathan.”

Admission normally costs $15, but the organizers have a special offer for GalleyCat readers. Email wallsandbridgesrsvp@gmail.com with GALLEYCAT in the subject and get in for free.

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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12. What we talk about when we talk about books…*

This will have to be short because I have to leave soon to go watch a rugby game, but the language we use to describe we did or did not like about books has always fascinated me. Hand-selling requires a bookseller to ask a customer leading questions, and depending on those questions (and the person you are asking) you’ll either get very concise or very vague responses. Often “What do you like to read?” would earn a categorical response like “Fiction” or “Mystery” or “Political titles” without any additional information, which allows you to take the customer to the right section but not much more. When faced with a question designed to seek more answers “What kind of fiction/mystery/whatever?” people often are unable to explain.

“I read everything,” they’ll say.

Or, “Anything but those cat books. I hate those cat books.”

Doesn’t exactly narrow down the field to make hand selling a little easier. Sure, I can pick up a few of my favorites and start the song and dance, but upon reading the back or hearing my schpeel (spelling?) the customer would respond, “Oh, that’s not me.” Or “I don’t read those books.”

Customers, to me at least, seemed to have a very clear definition of what they didn’t like, but were often unable to express what they did because the concept itself was so broad. It really isn’t a fair question. What they liked in one book they may not find interesting in another. Or they may not use the vocabulary to describe their needs enough to feel comfortable discussing their thoughts.

For the longest time before the rise of book clubs and reader blogs (which have seemed to help a little), it seemed like people got out of high school English and completely lost the skills necessary to express why one book worked and one didn’t. Setting, description, narration, dialogue, tone, their mood while reading it: all things that affect the reader’s relationship with the words on the page and yet I have generations of readers who can’t pinpoint what made them feel they way they did about a title or genre.

And again, genre is a very broad term. When it came to helping people find something new, I would often ask them what they last read and liked. Once I had an answer I could then slowly draw information out of them that I would need to steer them towards another title, “A lot of readers really love the way that history is threaded throughout that storyline, would you like something like that?”

We all have our triggers, things that do and do not work for us, but figuring out what those are and being able to express why is hard. Maybe it’s because we don’t want to be judged or because we’re not reading that closely to pinpoint or it really depends on the book, but whatever it is, it makes the process of hand selling a book that much harder. Because I’ve had many a customer caught up in my excitement over a title, only to have them turned off by a description or word.

The language of books—of how we discuss them—is a fascinating thing, and I’m interested in how it changes and grows with each book we read. I’ve been following Educating Alice’s experiment in teaching her class to discuss their reading through blogs. It is so fascinating to see what these kids pick out in their books as good description or bad, and how they talk about their likes and dislikes. If you’ve got a few hours to kill, I would check these out and if you’re familiar with the books being discussed then leave a message (the kids would love to hear what you have to say). If you’ve only got a few minutes, just drop a note here.

Because I would love to know what you talk about when you talk about books.

*Yeah, I know. Raymond Carver called and he wants his title back.

7 Comments on What we talk about when we talk about books…*, last added: 2/23/2007
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13. A Very Merry Unblogday to You

Today isn’t our Oxford World’s Classics discussion day (hence my bad pun about an “unblogday”). Don’t be too upset though, because we will be discussing Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland on Thursday. Get ready for some maddening discussion!

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14. Alice in Wonderland: The Discussion Begins


It’s finally book club day! Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is a pretty quick read (and I’m not bragging but I read insanely fast) so I have been looking forward to our discussion for almost a month.

alice.jpgI am going to post discussion questions throughout the day and I encourage you to share your opinion. But before we officially start I’d like to propose a challenge. How may puns can you find in Alice in Wonderland? For example, on page 84 the following conversation takes place:

“Why did you call him Tortoise, if he wasn’t one?” Alice asked.
“We call him Tortoise because he taught us,” said the Mock Turtle angrily. “Really you are very dull.”

Get it? Tortoise, taught us, mwahaha. Okay, so go searching. List all the puns you find in the comment section and at the end of the day we will see who has the sharpest eyes (and wit!). Perhaps there will be a prize involved…

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15. Alice in Wonderland: Rule 42

owc-banner.jpgI’m going to digress for a moment but I promise it will all come around to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

In The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (another great cult classic like Alice) the answer to “the great question… of Life, the Universe and Everything is…forty two.” The better question of course, is what the great question is. The great computer Deep Thought says, “So once you know what the question actually is, you’ll know what the answer means.” (more…)

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16. Oxford World’s Classics Book Club: The Secret Agent


Just in case you haven’t had a chance to start reading Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent we thought we would give you a little teaser. Below is the first page. Be sure to check back on May 24th for our discussion as part of our Oxford World’s Classics Book Club.

Mr. Verloc, going out in the morning, left his shop nominally in charge of his brother-in-law. (more…)

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17. Oxford World’s Classics Book Club: Foreshadowing

owc-banner.jpgSPOILER ALERT!
Continue to the discussion after the jump only if you have already read the book.

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18. Oxford World’s Classics Book Club: Tess of The D’Urbervilles


By Rebecca OUP-US

To get you all excited about June’s Book Club pick, Tess of The D’Urbervilles, I decided to excerpt the first page. An important revelation is made that affects Tess throughout the whole book. So stop procrastinating and go read!

On an evening in the latter part of May a middle-aged man was walking homeward from Shaston to the village of Marlott, in the adjoining Vale of Blakemore or Blackmoor. The pair of legs that carried him were rickety, and there was a bias in his gait which inclined him somewhat to the left of a straight line.


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19. Oxford World’s Classics Book Club: Tess of The D’Urbervilles


Rebecca OUP-US

I’m emotional. I sob in movies. Even bad movies like Boiler Room. Remember that one? It came out in like 1999 or 2000 and starred Giovanni Ribisi. There was a scene in which Ribisi’s character has an emotional break down in front of his father while reminiscing about a childhood biking accident. I sobbed like a baby and I didn’t even like the movie! So you can just imagine my reaction to the end of Tess of The D’Urbervilles. (more…)

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20. Back and blue: IF Forum returns

We have no excuses for the extended outage. We do have an upgraded forum ready for your loquaciousness, and with all previous posts intact.

The forum is running a default bluish-kinda theme for a bit, while we construct a polished IFri look’n'feel for the new software version.

Your old username and password should work. Welcome back.



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The trailer for book 2 is done. Be warned however, if you're currently still working your way through book 1, there are some minor spoilers here.

Otherwise, enjoy (Double Click to see in full size on youtube)

On another note, I'll be appearing on a segment of The Annie and Burl show this coming Saturday night! The show starts at 10:00 EST, and I should be popping up around 10:15. I'll be discussing the book and whatever else the cool table wants to toss my way. If you're bored, listen in!



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22. Teachers - Light Your Spark with Families for the Summer Months

Let's Keep Them "In the Pool"

We all know how important the summer months can be for students.  With little stimulation or opportunity, they can lose more than 3 months' progress during the time they are away from school.  Today's post will share resources and information on how you can use these last few weeks to impact summer learning.

I'll begin with a wonderful list of articles, websites, and research from the the State Library of Alaska.  You will find familiar names like Dr. Richard Allington and Steve Kreshan and a few new ones there. 

Here are a few more tools for supporting and encouraging students to read during the summer:

Connect with your local library and other organizations that may be promoting reading with school aged children in your community (booksellers like Amazon and Barnes and Nobles are on board).  Find out what they are doing and publicize those activities and resources with students and families.   My own local library, Huntsville/Madison County Public Library (AL), is offering an End of the Year Summer Reading Party!

Make reading a social event.  Give your students a few extra minutes every day to talk about what they are reading.  Use colorful, florescent index cards or post its and create a cool "What's HOT?" bulletin board. 

Blog or text with your students about what you and they are reading (and viewing) this summer.  You'll need parent permission, but even a core group can make a difference.  I know that you want to be "away" for a while just like the students do but a small investment can yield big dividends.  Set a few guidelines such as how often to post and encourage the online conversation to weave between story lines and characters and what your students are doing during their summer vacation.  You might even see some text to self and text to world connections and squeeze in a bit of authentic writing practice!

Get Families Involved

Families may not understand what can be lost during the summer without reading and writing.  Be sure you share with them a few bits of information and some encouraging resources.  Check out Summer Reading to help moms and dads, grandparents, and caregivers tap into the joy, expl

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