This is the time to update that media list.

It’s been a little while since we’ve updated our media lists. These lists are not only a great tool for your own use, but also for publicists trying to garner publicity for your bookstore events. It helps save money on postage, duplicate book deliveries, and time if you are able to provide the most current contact information. It should take around 300 seconds to give your media list a once-over.

Give your list a quick glance to see if anyone retired or moved on to a different market. Then take just a few minutes to call those on your list to verify that the contacts you have are still appropriate. If your local newspaper is large enough to have a book page and a children/family writer, be sure to include names for these individual specialties. And news directors at radio and television stations tend to change often, so be sure to call them. For each individual listed, include the name, title, e-mail address, phone and fax numbers, and mailing address.

Once you’re finished, add an “Updated 04/18/17” footnote, then save it as a PDF. Now the list is ready to send to any publicist who might be sending an author your way. When you send it to the publicist, remind them that this is to replace the previous list. Otherwise multiple books might be sent to one media outlet.

If you have a bit more time to devote to marketing today, it’s also a good time to look at your own press release email list, which should include the names you just updated on your media list, but also weekly, daily, and specialty newspapers in your area. (Here’s an updated list of state, regional and national press associations. Most press association websites have a list of members available to help you build your media list.)

If you email media releases, errors can leave a long-lasting digital trail. Be sure to look at the reports from the latest releases you’ve sent, especially the bounce report. Some emails bounce because a mailbox might be full, or the recipient’s email service might have some other temporary glitch. But if an email address consistently shows up in the bounced field, the media person has probably moved on or you have a bad address. A quick web search or a phone call will yield the correct address for press releases.

Video: ‘This Is How We Do It’

A friend who home-schools her 8-year-old son saw me reading This Is How We Do It: One Day in the Lives of Seven Kids from around the World by Matt Lamothe and became very excited about the educational possibilities it held.

Inspired by his own travels, Matt Lamothe’s This is How We Do It follows the real lives of seven kids from Italy, Japan, Iran, India, Peru, Uganda, and Russia for a single day. While the way they play, dress, and eat may differ, the shared rhythm of their days—and this one world we all share—unites them.

If you’d like to share this video with your customers, here’s the embed code:

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Review: ‘We Are Never Meeting in Real Life’ by Samantha Irby

Review: ‘We Are Never Meeting in Real Life’ by Samantha Irby

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In her collection of essays We Are Never Meeting in Real Life, Samantha Irby has done the impossible. There are books full of poop jokes. There are books that make salient points about African-American women and mental health. There has never been a book that does both, let alone does both well–until now.*

Even if you have never read Samantha Irby’s excellent blog, Bitches Gotta Eat, you’ll feel like you know this woman on a deep level by the time you finish the second essay, “A Blues for Fred.” It is the moving account of finally finding a man who has both curtains and towels after dating a string of adult children, only to see the relationship end in heartache. It comes right after an essay where Irby describes her large ankles on an imaginary reality show application, but it’s also right before one about a “pig demon from hell.” She later juxtaposes the fact that working class families who lack the ability to invest in turn cannot teach their children about financial planning,  thereby perpetuating a cycle of poverty, with a joke about pooping at parties. In another essay, she paints an intimate portrait of an erotically-charged moment between her and a sexy musician, then graces her readers with a poop joke.

Lest this review sell the book short, it must be said: these are all truly excellent poop jokes. Some of them have somewhat elaborate set-ups, while others catch you by surprise. They puncture the heaviest parts of this book and let out some emotional weight, much like a colon emptying into a toilet. Just when you think the book is about to make you cry, it makes you burst into laughter instead. If you did already start crying, you just sit there cackling with snot dripping off your face, wondering if laughing this hard at someone’s account of being in the emergency room with a heart problem makes you a terrible person. No, it doesn’t make you terrible. It makes Samantha Irby a rare talent.

Saying that We Are Never Meeting in Real Life is full of heavy material without being burdened with pretension or melodrama understates what Irby accomplishes. The realness and candor here aren’t preachy or moralistic–Irby’s dark humor and self-deprecating style charm you into wanting to read more about how the diet industry is full of toxic garbage. Also, Irby has lived a hell of a life. Have you ever wondered about the cliquey old women doing aqua-aerobics at the Y? About the illegal sprinkling of cremains? Do you have questions regarding the wearing of strap-on dildos? This book has answers. You’ll also find some fun linguistic creativity. Won’t someone please get “turtleneckini” into the Oxford English Dictionary?

While it’s not for the prudish or for readers who prefer emotional honesty sweetened like tea for a smooth ride down, We Are Never Meeting in Real Life is a must-read for pretty much everyone else. If you only read one brutally honest book of essays laced with scatalogical humor this year, it should be this one.

*Unless you count her first book, Meaty, but this one is even better than Meaty.

We Are Never Meeting in Real Life by Samantha Irby (Vintage | 9781101912195 | May 30, 2017)

Review (Plus): ‘This is Really Happening’

ThisIsReallyHappening_9780448493589_e2ca3Bookshelf Blurb: BuzzFeed Senior Writer Erin Chack has put pen to actual paper sharing her trials and tribulations of being a teen cancer survivor. Bald, scared, yet witty and determined, Chack makes you laugh at her stories while compelling you to embrace death as it is inevitable.

America’s Review: We all die–it is inevitable, but how we embrace death and its arrival speaks loudly of a person’s character.  When Erin Chack is told she has cancer at the age of 19 and her mother is diagnosed with it a year later, she discovers “normal” can be defined in a multitude of different ways.

A week doesn’t pass without my hearing of someone who has been touched by the effects of cancer and its aftermath.  Having recently lost an aunt to cancer, I started reading this book cautiously.  I was not ready to read a gut-wrenching, painfully sad book about a teenager diagnosed with cancer. By the third paragraph, however, I found I was not weeping, but laughing. Chack’s voice and language draw you into her story–not just cancer and its effects, but about her life.

She is correct: we all die. It is a completely normal process, but telling people you have the dreaded “C” word alters the version of death. Each chapter in the book is a different chapter (or experience) in her life. I was relieved to discover Erin already has a steady boyfriend prior to cancer, so there wouldn’t be any moments of falling in love/dying moments. Nope, not in this story. Erin tells us her first french kiss was slimy–just some guy’s tongue in her mouth. She shares her awkward moments of relationships from ninth grade to her present day working at BuzzFeed.

This Is Really Happening isn’t a YA fall-in-love-while-having-cancer book. This is nonfiction. This really happened to her. Bravo, Erin, for writing a book about cancer without it being a cliché.

In the classroom: Death doesn’t ask your age before it arrives. Death comes knocking despite religion, race or creed. When a student dies it can be confusing and difficult to understand.  The young feel invincible; no one young should ever die. But as Erin tells us, it happens. Death is cancer in this story, but it can reach our children through illness as much as a myriad of other accidents. Teaching students how to cope with mortality is essential when it arrives at the classroom.

One way to explore death in the classroom is through poetry. Emily Dickinson’s  Because I could not stop for Death explores the ability to feel invincible as many of our young teens do, but still concludes with the inevitable “eternity.” The poem’s ABAB format allows for rhythm in poetry to be taught alongside personification.

For your high school classroom, or more high level students, both Elegy in a Country Churchyard by Thomas Gray or To an Athlete Dying Young by A. E. Houseman both explore the idea that it doesn’t matter who you are or your age; die with pride. This is true of Erin Chack’s book as well, thus allowing dialogue for death and the recommendation of  this book to your students. When you can combine a nonfiction YA book and tie it to poetry it will broaden your students prospective–especially those who may be reluctant to branch into poetry or nonfiction, or just an altogether reluctant reader.

Death Be Not Proud by John Donne is always my go-to poem for my students. I make sure to send this poem home and give them a few days to read and interpret it. I encourage them to discuss it with their peers and family. Upon due date, as a class, we discuss it and then they receive their narrative essay: the obituary. It is enlightening to read their inner perspectives. For extra credit, they can read it out loud. There aren’t many takers on the extra credit, and it always baffles me.

This is Really Happening by Erin Chack (Razorbill | 9780448493589 | April 25, 2017)

Instagramming ‘The Stranger in the Woods’

I recently interviewed Michael Finkel about The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit for KMUW’s Marginalia podcast, and it both aired and landed on iTunes today. Kathryn took some great photos for our Instagram account. Here they are if you’d like to use them, too.

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