As International Women’s Month rockets toward a close for 2018, kit’s a good time to give a shoutout to the Netherlands’ current Comic Artist Laureate. Stateside, the status of laureate seems to be a designation reserved for arts that have been awarded a kind of protected status: protected from hoi polloi and popular acclaim. Happily, European countries realize that celebrating cartoonists is important, too.
Margreet de Heer draws with whimsical delight that is both infectious and informative. Her books available in America include histories of religion and philosophy, each of which do the heavy lifting of big ideas with accessible observations as well as sweetly engaging imagery. Like these two volumes, her webcomic is about discoveries as well: Discoveries in Comics themselves. In addition to being a crackerjack artist, she’s an observer in awe of both ideas and daily life and that awe is infectious.
You might start by enjoying the emotional—and emotional rollercoaster—of her account regarding her appointment as Comic Artist Laureate of the Netherlands. There is no good reason to stop there, however: after all, laureate status indicates that the person has something worthy of notice by everyone. Move on to read her thoughtful comic on #MeToo. Her wordless account of the process of making comics is one fellow artists will find comforting, s knowing company needs.
There are also pieces about the family cat, political questions, and the research processes she uses when writing nonfiction comics. There are movie reviews, moments of fantasy, and autobiographical moments. Pick up your screen, settle in, and enjoy a good long visit with a laureate.
Bob Dylan’s unwillingness to collect his Nobel Prize for Literature, in 2016, served as a popular reminder that this accolade (and there are others with similar rules) requires its recipient to speak up publicly when the award ceremony occurs. The Nobel Prize Organization provides snippets of some of the responding speeches. However, some great authors, as we know, are magnificent when writing and less so when speaking. A snippet serves these writers well because only the most compelling aspect of their speech need be archived.
How the Literary Laureate crafts the acceptance speech, and the content they choose to present varies, of course. Some apparently stay within the mode of shock and awe at the celebration of their work, while others use the global public square of the speech to make statements about events beyond the matter of literature and the winning of the grand prize at hand. John Steinbeck’s snippet, for example, gives us his embodied voice of a man who is expressing gratitude without the incisiveness of his writing voice. Austrian playwright and novelist Elfriede Jelinek, on the other hand, whose speech had to be recorded for presentation as she did not have the physical ability to attend, demonstrates the flow of her words as they are meant to be heard even when she places them in actors’ mouths.
And some provide highly literary and yet skillfully performed responses to the award that echo the award’s purpose and meaning: they give back—to all of us—in the spirit of adding to the world body of story and cultural history. Kazuo Ishiguro, the most recent Literature Nobel Laureate, exemplifies the third type, his 45-minute speech accessible to a wide variety of listeners, whether educated, academic, or even teenaged, while also adding to the literary body of the world a tiny gem of well-chosen, skillfully constructed images built entirely of the blending of words with voice. While a video with Ishiguro’s complete speech is available on the Nobel Prize Organization site, the words and the voice are the essentials here. Penguin Random House Audiobooks has it for sale as such; every library needs to make it accessible to its community.
This week, the finalists in each category of the Audie Awards (the “Oscars of audiobook publishing”) are announced. Less than a week later, ALA’s Reference & User Services Association’s CODES section releases its annual Listen List during ALA Midwinter, while the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) publishes its Notable Children’s Recordings list, the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) releases its Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults list, and those two ALA sections together announce the annual Odyssey Award for Excellence in Audiobook Production. So today would be a good time to get all your links updated to these various best audiobooks (and probably a good time to clear out your online storage of audiobook files of titles you’ve decided you don’t need to keep).
Here’s where to get each of these advisories for the aurally omnivorous:
The 2018 Audies finalist slates, in more than two dozen categories (some genre, some performance style, some performer gender), are revealed via social media all day Tuesday, 6 February, and then find a website home at theaudies.com.
Announcement of the Odyssey Award (including any Honor titles in addition the winner) is part of the Youth Media Awards event slated for 8 am Monday, 12 February, in Denver. The event is live streamedand then the announced winner(s) are listed on the Odyssey Award homepage.
This is the season when “best” lists bloom like gardens in spring and understanding who declares a publication as best of the year is the first step to deciding why that declaration deserves what amount of attention. Since AudioFile Magazine is the only publication that has been reviewing audiobooks only, and for 25 years, the accumulated experiences of their editors and reviewers puts them in the lead for a demonstrated capacity to judge the best from a year’s output of new audiobooks. AudioFile’s reviews concern themselves with the specifically audio format of the presentation: narration quality, suitability of the written work to audio performance, and directional and engineering attention during the publication process.
It is such a pleasure to publish a post here on NSR about our very own Sue Polanka, the academic librarian from Wright State University (OH), who has been instrumental in transforming the coverage of ebooks in libraries and who, in fact, founded and launched No Shelf Required almost (hard to believe) ten years ago. The blog quickly became THE site on all things ebooks for librarians of all walks of life: public, school, and academic.
As noted on WSU’s site, Sue was honored by her peers for her contributions to the university and with academic libraries in Ohio. She received the Jay Ladd Distinguished Service Award from the Academic Library Association of Ohio (ALAO) at its annual conference on Oct. 27 in Columbus.
The award recognizes an individual who has promoted academic libraries and librarianship around Ohio and who has provided leadership in the promotion of the association through service, including committee membership, executive board office or interest group office.
“No one wins these awards alone. I couldn’t have accomplished all I have without the support of my colleagues at Wright State and so many talented librarians across Ohio and beyond,” Sue said.
I had the privilege of collaborating with Sue many times and on several projects over the years (we edited a book together, worked on a quarterly journal together, etc.) and I consider her one of the most knowledgeable librarians around. I also consider her a dear friend.
It is an absolute honor to carry on the mission of No Shelf Required (which she entrusted me with two years ago) and to be part of its story.
Besides engaging with what authors and performers have created through audiobooks, the sound of storytelling extends to creating and listening to family stories, neighborhood stories, captured memories of unwritten, and otherwise unscripted, events, and conversations. The work of StoryCorps addresses this by providing both structure for and preservation of such recordings. Recordings made in StoryCorps booths, which pop up around the country on well publicized schedules, are accepted by the Library of Congress as part of the American archives of cultural and popular history. StoryCorps has won a variety of humanities distinctions, including the Peabody Award (2007).
For several years, StoryCorps has been promoting The Great Thanksgiving Listen, a guided opportunity for those gathered with multiple generations to celebrate the holiday. With the goal of creating “a culture of listening,” this effort points directly to the power of listening in communication, intergenerational honor, and understanding. Directions are specific, simple to follow, and require virtually nothing to attain satisfying results. The event is suggested for families, classes of all ages, and neighborhood gathering places. Continue reading StoryCorps and the Great Thanksgiving Listen→
This is the high season for literary award announcements, from the international Nobel Laureate to the Mystery Writers of America’s Anthony Awards. In between come plaudits for the best writing in everything from investigative journalismto lifetime achievement in military literature. Many such award winners have had previous titles recorded as audiobooks; some have the winning title already available in audio format; a few will remain unrecorded, at least in the foreseeable future.
Does a satisfying, literary award-winning book automatically translate into a great listen? This is like asking whether a fantastic cake recipe can be made into delightful cookies. Maybe. Sometimes. It depends on factors that have nothing to do with the print work—the quality of the narrators’ performance, sound engineering care—and a few that do, in fact, connect to what the book is, how the author treats both language and prosody, and whether the content makes sense aloud. Continue reading Literary Awards Season Disambiguates Writing from Performing→
If you are in the book/library/publishing business and you haven’t heard of Sweek, it’s time to catch up. The Dutch start-up aims to provide a global—and social—platform for free reading, writing and sharing stories. According to its earlier press releases, its already present in over 75 countries. Sweek describes itself as “an open platform that allows anyone to easily publish stories, books and series and to read online and offline…[and] it minimizes the distance between writer and reader and adds a social component through integration of social media and the follow, like, share and comment options.”
Sweek is available on all relevant platforms (including iOS and Android) and new stories from authors from around the world are uploaded daily. The idea is to give established and aspiring writers a creative outlet where they can share their stories for free, while also being able to promote their work. NSR covered Sweek in the past, mostly recently when it reached its 100,000th user.
To date, Sweek has welcomed over 200,000 users. And since its launch in October 2016, Sweek users have published more than 50,000 stories, resulting in millions of reads and a high level of social activity.
I have a theory that writing and reading are inseparable. Reading, alone, isn’t enough to transform us or help us internalize knowledge and the experience of being human; in the (not verbatim) words of Einstein, when we only read to learn (vs. when we also create) we run the risk of becoming ‘lazy’ learners). The truth is, we are wired, as humans, to share stories. We literally exist to share stories. Everything we do, at its core, is an attempt to create or share a story. Products/platforms that blend the skill of writing with the skill of reading are helping us to envision new possibilities. Sweek is a good example.—Mirela Roncevic Continue reading Sweek, a social platform for reading and writing, launches a writing competition; awards a 16-year-old Swiss girl→
Following a year when schools from 13 different states were singled out as winners, the Follett Challenge is launching its seventh annual contest.
The 2018 Follett Challenge, open for entries through Dec. 15, will reward $200,000 in products and services from Follett to schools/districts with innovative educational programs that teach 21st-century skills to students. All public and private K-12 schools/districts in the United States, Canada, and Australia are eligible to apply.
Follett, a provider of educational resources to K-12 institutions for more than 140 years, is being honored by the Illinois School Library Media Association (ISLMA) with the organization’s 2017 Pillar Award. Follett will receive the honor Friday (Oct. 20) at ISLMA’s Awards Dinner Banquet in Springfield, IL, which caps the association’s three-day 2017 conference.
The ISLMA Board of Directors selected Follett as the Pillar Award recipient for the McHenry, Ill.-based company’s “distinguished and exceptional service and contribution to ISLMA and the school library community.”
Good audiobook narrators are trained actors who have developed deep skills in voice and breath management. In many cases, they, along with professional directors, bring interpretation to texts with minimal personal contact with their authors as people. This year, the Odyssey Award, an American Library Association’s honor for best audiobook production for the youth audience, feted titles in which that general rule of thumb happened to not be the case.
Among the three Honor audiobooks, Jason Reynolds’ Ghost (Simon & Schuster), we heard from both author and narrator Guy Lockard, reached the ear from the page via the talents of Reynolds’ friend of 20 years. As Lockard told it from the celebration podium, these two “sat on the same couch, eating tunafish sandwiches” and listening to community members holding forth around them. Lockard knows Reynolds’ characters as thoroughly as Reynolds. The result is an audiobook experience that is thoroughly true to the feelings of the author’s word choices, phrasings, and interpretation of experience.
The Odyssey Award this year went to a production that wasn’t quite as uniquely personal. However, Anna and the Swallow Man (Listening Library) made friends of former strangers author Gavriel Savit and actor Allan Corduner, two generations of men whose own ancestors lived some of the experiences on which this story hinges. This shared community memory of the Holocaust through a child’s interpretive capacity informs both writer and narrator at an innate level where no explanation is needed from one to other for a full listening experience to come to being.
There are two other Honor titles in this year’s Odyssey Award season, each of which contributes an unusual performance experience based on the parameters of the author’s storytelling. Dream On, Amber, by Emma Shevah and performed by Laura Kirman (Recorded Books) involves the need for the narrator to speak as family members whose linguistic heritages include Italian, Japanese, and 21st century American English Tween. Nimona, a graphic novel by Noelle Stevenson, was produced by a full cast—and appropriate sound effects (Harper Audio) to move an original format that relies on visual content as well as verbal from page to ear.
All in all, this year’s Odyssey seems to be a celebration of relationships as much as production skill sets. And, as ever, every title makes grand reading by ear.
Human language involves a plethora of two-way avenues: we listen to others, we speak to be heard; we read language documented in writing and write our own language for briefer or longer preservation. Two-way streets can hold one-way traffic so we don’t create expressed language with the requirement of an audience. We couldn’t, however, listen to others or read their expressions before those others put together the words we meet with ears and eyes. We also speak from what we’ve read, listen to once-written—and never-written—texts. It’s a glorious interchange in which we develop and exercise so many skills that blend and fold and emerge from each other.
The Portable Stories project offers writers a path for reaching original publication in professionally performed audio. To date it’s gone through one full cycle from short story theme announcement, to writing contest submissions and judging, through casting and recording the winner. The second cycle’s writing portion closed last month and announcement of the winning text happens next month. Then it’s on to recording and producing that audio short story, along with the next theme announcement. Continue reading Listening to writers, writing to be heard→
Last week the 22nd year of Audie Award celebrations took place, an occasion in which the audiobook industry recognizes the best and brightest of a year’s worth of production. Back in 1996, the initial event feted works in 15 categories, six of which were three sets of pairings differentiating between abridged and unabridged efforts. The short lists of finalists were…short: three works in each of 13 categories and only the ultimate winners in the other two. Those two, with their single callout each, represented the abridged and unabridged “Internet listeners” choices.
In 1996, the Audio Publishers Association, the award-granting body for the Audies, didn’t even leave an Internet footprint. The Internet Archive Wayback Machine retains the first capture of APA’s online presence as April 1997. Continue reading The Audies Turn 22→
Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library (TSCPL) in Kansas has been named the 2016 Library of the Year by Gale, a part of Cengage Learning, and Library Journal. The press release (below) and other news stories about the award point to the library’s exemplary engagement with its community. The library is to receive $10,000 at an ALA reception in Orlando, FL, on June 26th.
Glancing at the library homepage makes it clear that TSCPL engages in all sorts of activities, including filling prescriptions for patrons.
Relevant to NSR readers and advocates for digital literacy: the library offers ebooks and digital content, too, including a large collection of audiobooks. According to its web site, TSCPL provides access to thousands of ebooks and audiobooks through OverDrive, Hoopla Digital, BookFlix, and TumbleBooks for Kids. Its econtent offerings also include videos, music, and magazines.
Dreamroll, please! The winner of this year’s Follett Challenge is Ben Eielson Junior/Senior High School, located on Alaska’s Eielson Air Force Base. The school, named after famous aviator, Carl Ben Eielson, earns a $60,000 prize in Follett products and services, plus a celebration May 6 at their school. For those unfamiliar with the Follett Challenge: it’s a yearly contest in which Follett seeks to sponsor the most innovative K-12 programs teaching 21st-century skills to students. Entrants are asked to complete an online application and submit a video describing their program. Congrats, Ben Eielson High, for winning. Good work, Follett, for going the extra mile. Full press release below. Continue reading Congrats Alaska’s Ben Eielson High School for winning the Follett Challenge→
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