June 30, 2007

Every time I attend an ALA conference, there's always at least one "blow my wig off" experience--one that makes me think, "Girl, you've got to overcome your introverted ways and get OUT there more, because there's LOTS going on that you don't have a clue about. If you're of the same ilk--an introvert who carefully manages stimulation from the outside world because you are so easily overwhelmed--you understand what I'm talking about.

Here's the session that rearranged a few molecules for me in 2007: Reader's Advisory for Exploding Genres. The speakers were David Wright, a librarian for the Seattle Public Library; Kelly Link and Zane––both authors and owners of their own small publishing companies. This dynamic trio discussed a whole category of fiction I hadn't previously known about, a category so broad, offbeat, and edgy that it defies categorization. For people who seem born to categorize (read: librarians) this is at once scary and thrilling: scary because some of us in midlife don't even know how to FIND this fiction; thrilling because this is what young adults are interested in reading. Don't look for these reviews in mainstream publications like Booklist, Library Journal, or the New York Times because you won't find them there. To locate what attracts Generation Y readers, explore the flourishing online literary culture, nourished and revealed in part by music and alternative media. Don't worry--you don't have to LOVE this stuff once you find it. But if you're a librarian (and maybe if you're a writer, too), you certainly need to KNOW about it! A few sources I gleaned from the session were:

The Believer, a free magazine that features essays, book reviews, interviews.

McSweeney's Quarterly Concern, a quarterly journal that reports on groundbreaking fiction.

The editor of McSweeney's, Dave Eggers, also publishes The Best American Nonrequired Reading, an annual which highlights the realm of America's best new writers. Another similar publication is Best New American Voices, edited by Jane Smiley.

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