Sunday, 30 March 2014
In a 1980 interview with David Sheff, John Lennon shared this story about writing the song Nowhere Man: “I’d spent five hours that morning trying to write a song that was meaningful and good and I finally gave up and lay down. Then Nowhere Man came, words and music, the whole damn thing, as I lay down.” For Lennon, Nowhere Man seemed to possess him; the song wouldn’t let him sleep until after he had written it down. If you’ve ever felt this same strange pull, you may be a songwriter, too. But if you need some help getting your song out, why not stop by the library?
If you’ve never written a song before, there are a few books to get you started. The Everything Music Composition Book: a Step-by-Step Guide to Writing Music by Eric Starr provides a great foundation for writing songs, covering everything from music history to integrating various musical devices into a whole song. You Can Teach Yourself Songwriting by Larry McCabe is another great book for beginners. McCabe will show you how to write in different song forms, how to make your song’s melody, and how to find the right chords. Both books will have you writing in no time.
When you’re writing songs, you don’t want to neglect the lyrics. A really helpful book is Shelia Davis’ The Craft of Lyric Writing. It’s a bit dated in terms of the songs it examines, but an excellent resource nonetheless, detailing exactly how songwriters go about creating their lyrics (and how you can, too!) If you know how to write lyrics and are looking more for ideas, we have a couple of books that can get you going, such as 1000 Songwriting Ideas by Lisa Aschmann and Songwriting Without Boundaries: Lyric Writing Exercises for Finding Your Voice by Pat Pattison.
Now that you’ve got the lyrics, make sure you don’t neglect your song’s melody. Melody in Songwriting: Tools and Techniques for Writing Songs by Jack Perricone is an excellent resource on the topic. This book is rather advanced, but it provides a great look at how the melody and the harmony interact.
You may also be interested in the business side of songwriting, should you decide to sell your songs. Jason Blume’s This Business of Songwriting is a great overview of how to generate some income using your songs. It takes a look at how to pitch them to various people in the music industry, how to go about self-publishing, protecting your songs, and many other important business aspects of songwriting. Another option is The Craft and Business of Songwriting: A Practical Guide to Creating and Marketing Artistically and Commercially Successful Songs by John Braheny, which gives a look at both creating songs and marketing them. He also includes stories and anecdotes from many successful songwriters, such as Paul McCartney and Sheryl Crow.
Thinking of stories and anecdotes, we’ve got a couple of books full of advice and war stories from the pros, such as Written in My Soul: Rock’s Great Songwriters Talk About Creating Their Music by Bill Flanagan and the ebook The Secrets of Songwriting: Leading Songwriters Reveal How to Find Inspiration & Success by Susan Tucker. Both books use a question and answer format, asking songwriters questions about their careers and shedding light on each writer’s unique writing process. Flanagan’s book may be older, but the songwriters he talked to are overall more recognizable than the ones in Tucker’s book.
So if you’ve ever wanted to write a song before, be sure to stop by the library. We’d be happy to
Sunday, 23 March 2014
One of the questions we often hear at the library is “I’ve had a bestseller on hold for a very long time – why hasn’t it come in yet?” I’m going to talk about how the fiction bestsellers get onto the shelves in the library and hopefully answer this question.
To start, the books have to be ordered. The library uses vendors who stock a vast inventory of books from a variety of publishers. These vendors send out print catalogues (likely to be all online in the future) well in advance of a bestseller’s publication date. These are “prepub” catalogues. The actual street date of the book is often 4-6 months in advance of the order catalogues. For example, Top Secret Twenty-One by Janet Evanovich has a street date of June 17. This title was ordered by library staff in October 2013, appearing in our online catalogue on Oct. 31 – that’s 8 months!
The library also orders bestsellers from a company called McNaughton. These are basically leased books which are returned to the company after the mad rush is over. Again, the titles in their catalogue are in advance of the street date, usually 3 to 4 months. Using the Evanovich book as an example again, the library catalogue shows that it was ordered as a McNaughton on Feb. 18.
Now that the orders have been placed we wait until the books arrive via a delivery service. The McNaughton books are packed in well-marked boxes which are opened right away. Books that have been ordered from the vendors usually arrive within a day or two of the McNaughtons but it is not easy to tell what is in those boxes - there can be a mix of fiction and non-fiction, regular and bestsellers, adult and children’s material.
The McNaughton titles are processed right away. These books are easy to distinguish from our other books since they have a green paper band along the bottom with the letter “M” on the spine. We also use the McNaughton books for our Fast Lane service. These are bestsellers which are designed for fast readers on a “first come, first served” basis. These books can’t have holds placed on them and have a loan period of only one week with a higher late return fee as an incentive to get them back to the shelves quickly.
So what does processing entail? First, books have to be “received” into the library catalogue system by staff where the status changes from “on order” to “in processing”. McNaughtons are received right away then sent to be catalogued. We also generate a list twice a day for books that have been received and have holds. We search through a number of carts to find the books and catalogue these books first. A complete catalogue record must be created for each book. Book jackets are laminated and labels are applied. The books are then sorted by branch and shipped to staff to “check in” which will activate the hold. Then you receive your notification that your hold is ready.
We try to process the books as fast as we can. Bestsellers are given priority and we like to get them to you within a day or two after we’ve received them. Last year alone we added over 6,200 adult fiction books. You’re welcome.
Sunday, 16 March 2014
Every year, CBC radio hosts the annual battle of the books, “Canada Reads”. Since 2002, the merits of five Canadian novels are debated and defended by prominent Canadian celebrities as to why their selection should be deemed as the one book all of Canada should read. The program consists of five episodes where at the end of each, a panel of judges votes a book out until one is left.
Since its inauguration, titles such as In the Skin of a Lion, Rockbound, A Complicated Kindness, Lullabies for Little Criminals, and The Best Laid Plans have all won the top prize. As a result, more Canadians have become aware of these great titles and have subsequently sought them out. This year’s theme “a Novel to Change Our Nation” dealt with a variety of subjects, ranging from environmental preservation, gender and racial equality and immigration.
This year’s Canada Reads winner was Joseph Boyden’s The Orenda. Since its release the Orenda has captivated readers, even landing on the Globe and Mail’s bestseller list. Taking place in the 17th century in what would later become Canada, the narrative follows a young Iroquoian girl, a Huron warrior and a Jesuit priest and how their distinct paths cross with one another. The Orenda is a thrilling read, one that shows society in the 17th century between the First Nations and Europeans with a fresh perspective.
The runner ups included Margaret Atwood’s The Year of The Flood, the second entry in the MaddAddam dystopian trilogy, which follows the same events from Oryx and Crake but told from a different perspective.
Half Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan tells the story of two traveling black musicians in Europe trying to find success in the underground jazz scene while hiding from the impending Nazi regime. As one musician finds refuge from the horror, the Gestapo arrests his band mate. This is a story of friendship, anger, confusion and regret set against the haunting backdrop of WWII.
Central to Rawi Hage’s Cockroach is the theme of immigration. The protagonist is an immigrant from the Middle East living in the slums of Montreal, whose only means to survive is by thieving. After unsuccessfully attempting suicide, he is sentenced to therapy, where the story begins to examine the narrator’s past as well as his future.
The last selection of this year’s Canada Reads competition is Annabel by Kathleen Winter. During the 1960’s in rural Labrador, people had never heard of the term “intersex”. After a young couple give birth to an intersex baby the father decides to raise the child as a boy while the mother nurtures the feminine side. Annabel is a fascinating novel that explores what it means to be a male or female in this particular time in history.
So do you think the Orenda truly has the power to influence change? Maybe another title will seem more fitting to you as the book Canada should read. Each novel will offer a unique experience, subjective to each reader.
Sunday, 9 March 2014
Everyone I know goes through times of book drought, where there’s just nothing new by their favourite authors nor does anything seem appealing. What do we do at a time like this? How do we find the next book to thrill us and save us from the winter blues?
I have a few different ways I find new books, stories that might be outside of my usual reading choices which cause me to stretch a bit. One device which many of us use is to get reading recommendations from friends and coworkers. Most often these suggestions come from people who read very much in my comfort zone. However, there is a huge benefit to asking someone you wouldn’t normally make that request of. Last month I was chatting with Steve at Waverley when he held a book and said “he’s a great author.” The “he” in question was Scott Sigler and the book Pandemic. I checked out the first two books in the Infected trilogy and read all three in rapid succession. Now, I’m on to another one of Sigler’s books and have passed Infected on to other readers.
One of the most traditional ways of finding a new book to read is in reading reviews. I really enjoy this as I frequently read pre-publication reviews. By the time the book hits our shelves I have often forgotten the review, but the book appears on hold for me. In the past year or so there have been two new authors I’ve encountered this way that really stand out. The first is Jojo Moyes and her book Me Before You. I’m now a dedicated fan of her work. The most recent was The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon which arrived just last week. I’ll be going through the same process with her as I did with Moyes in reading previous works and eagerly anticipating new publications.
Sometimes a book comes to us serendipitously. Usually it’s a case of the cover, title, or even author name catching our eye. Sometimes it’s even stranger. This past January I had the same book fall off of the shelf three times in one morning, so I decided to check it out and read it. Until then I was familiar with the work of Janet Evanovich, but had never read one of her books. The Heist proved to be a good, quick read which exposed me to yet another new author.
There are of course other ways to find new books such as our “New and Upcoming” list, the author suggestion shelf-talkers we’ve been putting on the shelves, the TBPL Off the Shelf blog, and the Our Readers Recommend bulletin boards. With these tools and some good conversation we should never be without a great read.