Friday, May 03, 2013

True Stories into the Hands of Readers

Today I am speaking at Reaching Forward Conference in Rosement, Illinois. I'll talk with library staff about helping readers find books with true stories in their library collections.

Click to view my slideshow: True Stories into the Hands of Readers

Click to view some of my true story suggestions arranged by appeal factors: The Appeal of Reading True Stories

Here are some notes to go along with and explain some of what I will be saying with some of the slides:

2. Our focus today is reading true stories for pleasure. I define pleasure broadly, so that does include reading for knowledge. Wanting to learn about a person, time, or place and satisfying that want  can be as good as spending time with well-written stories populated with compelling characters in settings that interests readers.

In doing readers' advisory, Joyce Saricks advises that you suggest books instead of recommend them. That lets the client decline more gracefully, gives the client more control of the transaction. You are working with the reader to pick books. You also have less to lose if the reader then dislikes the books she or he takes home.

3. Readers have long had a choose to read fiction or true stories. Both of these books deal with the Battle of Gettysburg. Killer Angels on the left is a story told by soldiers. Stars in Their Courses is an intimate account of the battle incorporating letters, diaries, and other accounts of the time. Shelby Foote also wrote fiction. Neither his fiction nor history disappoints.

4. Both are emotional stories about women suddenly widowed by well-known authors. I was mesmerized by Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking and how she moves around and around her topic. I could hardly put it down.

5. The Natural was first a short story based on a true incident about a former Chicago Cub being shot by a young fanatical woman. Eight Men Out is the true story of the 1919 Chicago Black Sox Scandal. Both stories have complicated baseball players navigating through difficult situations. Both should be required reading for anyone interested in Chicago - no love of baseball necessary.

6. The advantages for true stories are information and authority. Truth should be informative and verifiable. Of course, these qualities may also be in fiction based on truth, but it may be hard to know where authors take their liberties for the sake of story.

7. I am using the appeal categories emphasized in the Read On … series of readers' advisory books. A good story is the most common quality wanted in books by readers. History that appeals broadly is focused. It takes a certain event or follows a certain theme. It validates the story in history.

8. Readers often say that they want books with sympathetic characters. Some like villains. Of course, biographies and memoirs give us plenty of both.

9. Setting has always been a big appeal to me. I particularly like to learn about places far different from my own environs. Stories in Asia, Africa, or South America appeal to me. Place can be presented almost like characters by talented writers.

10. By language, we refer to the type and quality of the writing. Some readers say that they will read anything that is written well. Personal essays are the true stories equivalent of fictional short stories. Sometimes every word and sentence has been crafted.

11. By mood, we mean books that have a certain atmosphere. Like mystery novels, true crime stories have a particular gritty toughness necessary to recount horrible events. Like romance novels, true romance recounts amorous relationships that may succeed or fail.

12. In the past, history and biography tended to be academic in tone, filled with lots of facts with an emphasis on scholarship and less concern for storytelling.

13. The trend now is to write a slice of biography or a slice of history, well-crafted works that use an especially noteworthy bit of the story to evoke the whole story. There is more celebration of true story writing. More reporting and more awards. Colleges and universities offer courses in creative nonfiction, including the Iowa Writer's Workshop. Readers keep books like Seabiscuit and Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand on best seller lists for months and years. Bill O'Reilly is reeling in profits with Killing Lincoln, Killing Kennedy, and in Setember Killing Jesus.

Of course, there are a lot more slides. I'll try to add more after the conference.


Cecilia Wiltzius said...

Wonderful suggestions for someone who prefers non-fiction.
Cecilia Wiltzius
Karl Junginger Memorial Library
Waterloo WI

ricklibrarian said...

Cecilia, thanks. I am glad you like them. Rick

Donna said...

I enjoyed your presentation very much. Combined with the presentation on nonfiction book discussion groups, I have a plan to move forward at the Oak Park library.

ricklibrarian said...

Donna, I'm glad you could come. Let me know how you do.