Library Life

Calling All Teens: Send In Your Zine Submissions Now

In an age of texting, tweeting, and LOL-inducing memes, putting out a print zine may sound a little 20th century. But there’s something to be said for publishing a story you can have and hold.

This summer, the Library is asking KC area youth to send in their homespun works of art and letters to produce a brand-new zine for and by teens.

Zines, for those not in the know, are handmade (often photocopied) magazines containing comics, fiction, poetry, essays, and other ephemera that usually reflect a subculture or community outside the mainstream.

Kansas City has been home to many zines over the years. Thanks to the recent efforts of Library worker Stephanie Iser, the Missouri Valley Room now is home to a growing zine collection.

Now, the Library wants local teens to put their thoughts to ink and paper to create a zine of their own.

“Self-publishing through Twitter, Facebook, and blogging is great, but with those tools there’s a format you have to follow,” says Central Youth Services teen associate Wick Thomas, creator of the project. “With a zine, you have complete control over the design, the content, and the way it’s distributed.”

For Thomas, zines have a staying power that tweets and bytes don’t.

“There’s something more impactful about picking up a zine, taking it somewhere, and reading it,” he says. “If you read something online, it won’t stick with you the way it would if you found it in a coffee shop.”

Thomas says he had been wanting to make a zine for years, but it took a little urging from Iser to get him to move. (“She lit a fire under me,” he says.) Additionally, Thomas found himself with an ad hoc zine editorial board following the success of his National Novel Writing Month program in November 2011.

“We were done with NaNoWriMo, and we were looking for a way to get the teens’ works published, so we decided to self-publish,” Thomas says.

In addition to honing their own written words, Thomas and his group of novel-writers-turned-zine-editors are currently fielding submissions from all over the city. They welcome contributions of artwork, writing, and anything else that area teens think is fit to print. The deadline for the as-yet-unnamed zine is currently July 1, 2012, though that may be extended.

Once the submissions have been collected and filtered, the editors will produce both print and online version of the zine – and they’ll decide on a name, too. Print versions will be sent to all Library locations, and copies will be added to the catalog for future zinemakers to check out.

“We’ve got a lot of amazing teens in Kansas City who don’t have a way to get published, and we just wanted to show them that this is possible,” Thomas says.

If you’re interested in submitting your work (or if you know a teen who might be), e-mail Wick at wickthomas@kclibrary.org.

About the Author

Jason Harper is the web content developer and social media manager at the Kansas City Public Library.

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Know Your Librarians: Children's Tag Team

One is a master at getting kids revved up at programs. The other knows children's books like an old pro.

Meghann Henry and Elena McVicar are ready to take the joy of reading both into the community and into the kids' areas at two branches in need of their services.

Though they could be "anywhere in the city," according to Henry, on a recent Wednesday afternoon, the two new youth services librarians are at the children's desk at the North-East Branch. Earlier in the day, they had given a program at J.A. Rogers Elementary.

At the program, as McVicar read and gave book talks, Henry led story circles and character-building exercises based on Shane Evans' book Olu's Dream.

It's a tag-team approach designed to capitalize on each librarians' skills.

"When she wants a program for a book, she comes to me. And when I need a book for a program, I ask her," Henry says.

Before coming to the Library, Henry worked for three years as education director at Kansas City's renowned Coterie Theatre. Her programming skills perfectly complement McVicar's formal library training. With a dual MLS/Master of Arts in Children's Literature from Simmons College in Boston, McVicar brings a passion for getting kids to read.

"I'm really into the new titles and new trends," McVicar says. "I've been plugged into the world of children's library services for the past three years."

Now that they're plugged in at the Kansas City Public Library, the two will bring their passion for working with kids to the North-East and L.H. Bluford Branches, as well as into the community.

As youth services librarians, they'll perform all the usual services for children and teens at their home branches -- Henry at North-East and McVicar at Bluford.

But, as part of the Outreach team, they will also spend about half of their time invested in the community-wide efforts coordinated by their supervisor, Outreach Director Mary Olive Thompson.

Double Duty

This unique marriage of youth and outreach services in these two librarians' job descriptions grew out of the need for children's librarians and outreach support at both the North-East and Bluford branches.

There had been no children's librarian at North-East for years. At Bluford, the spot had been vacant following Thompson's move to Outreach in late 2011. Meanwhile, both branches also needed help bringing kids into the libraries.

"We can't serve the community from a single point in each location," says Joel Jones, director of Branch and Outreach Services. "We have to go out to the schools and community centers but also be at the branches."

Going forward, Henry and McVicar will report to Thompson and their branch managers. They will collaborate on outreach programs and serve children and teens at both branches.

They will reshape their roles as their roles reshape them.

"Mary and Joel have been encouraging us to focus on our strengths -- what we're good at -- and the rest will come," Henry says.

Is this hybrid youth-services/outreach approach the shape of things to come?

"It's more of an experiment than a model for the future of children's and teens services," Jones says.

So far, it's off to a rocketing start.

About the Author

Jason Harper is the web content developer and social media manager at the Kansas City Public Library.
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Video: Kids vs. Engineers in a LEGO Robot Rumble

What happens when you put trained engineers and science-savvy kids in a room together for two days and ask them to battle it out with LEGO robots? We found out the answer on a recent Saturday at the Plaza Branch.

The results were… surprising.

Surprising , that is, that the kids didn’t beat up on them worse.

After all, the children and teens of the LEARN Science and Match Club of Kansas City had an unfair advantage. Their mastery of FIRST LEGO robotics has earned them national and even global rankings (eighth in the world, to be exact). So even though the adults who hunkered down for two days this past weekend at the Plaza Branch, were engineers, programmers, and a team of our own tech-savvy librarians, LEARN’s kids had gotten months to prepare.

Best of all, the challenges simulate real-world engineering problems. The theme for Geek vs. Geek was the food industry.

Get more of the story in the video below.

“We’ve been doing this for seven years, and we’ve touched several thousand kids,” said LEARN’s Rebecca Kidwell. “Our goal is giving them hands-on, interactive experiences that they think of as games but that we think of as true learning.”

Last Saturday at the Plaza, it looked as if both kids and adults were learning from each other.

“One of my favorite things about this event has been watching the kids and the grown-ups interact with each other,” said April Roy, Plaza children’s librarian and assistant branch manager. “You have professional engineers who are talking on this technical level with children, and they’re having great conversations about science and math.”

The learning doesn’t stop with robots and games, either. LEARN’s kids have recently won the first phase of an MIT grant to create a prototype product code-named Script Alert. The app uses tracking technology to identify all the prescription drugs consumers bring into their homes and make sure they take their medicines correctly.

“Our kids are doing real-life science and making a real impact on the world,” Kidwell said.

Watch more: LEARN on Fox 4’s Morning Show

Competitors at Geek vs. Geek included: Balance Innovations, Digital Maelstrom, Perceptive Software, Rhythm Engineering, UMKC, and the Kansas City Public Library. Sponsors: Balance Innovations, Synthesis Solutions Inc., and the Library.

Music in the video:

"Something Elated" (Broke For Free) / CC BY 3.0

About the Author

Jason Harper is the web content developer and social media manager at the Kansas City Public Library.

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Know Your Librarians: Sue Sanders Has Room for Compassion

Kansas City atheists may not believe in God, but they definitely believe in Sue Sanders.

That's true of two area atheist groups, at least: The Kansas City Freethinkers and the Kansas City Atheist Society.

Both are avid followers of "Sandersism," which, as countless other organizations know, is the practice of booking meeting rooms from Sue Sanders, scheduling coordinator in the Kansas City Public Library's Public Affairs department.

As the schedule master of the Library's 18 conference rooms across 10 locations, Sanders fields as many as 100 requests for reservations a day.

They call, they e-mail, they submit.

Some represent for-profit concerns that will have to pay for the space. But many more are nonprofits, for whom room rentals are free -- and therefore highly appealing.

"The rooms are very much in demand," says Sanders. "We could do with twice as many."

The vast list of community organizations and individuals that use the Library's meeting rooms makes up a cultural cross-section of the community.

The list teems with churches, professional-development societies, support groups, fraternity/sorority alumni clubs, job clubs, women's interest groups, activist committees, book clubs, crafting circles, and much, much more.

There are the Missourians for the Protection of Dogs, the Descendants of the Five Civilized Tribes, the OoEee Book Club, the Paper Scrappers, the Blind Ham Radio Club, the Android App Conversion specialists, and even the Marching Cobras drill team (who presumably leave their drums and whistles at home).

One thing they all share in common: a lack of rent-free places to gather.

"Without the use of the Library meeting room for free, our group would have to fork over $60 to $100 a month for a room," says Linda Hager, meeting organizer for the Missouri Council of the Blind, Progressive Affiliate.

Hager says her group came to the Library a year ago, after the church where they had been meeting hiked up its rates. Sanders quickly found a space that would accommodate their needs: the Chairman's Office near the front doors of Central.

The group - which consists of blind people - also found a friend in the Downtown Community Improvement District ambassadors.

"The guards that help us there are primo," Hager says. "They meet us at the door and help us in. The Chairman's Office is perfect for blind people to access -- it's convenient, it's comfortable. The guards will even go get us coffee. They're worth their weight in gold. And Sue is a breeze to work with for scheduling."

Sometimes Sanders helps with more than just scheduling.

Considering that she interacts with such a large and diverse sampling of the community, Sanders knows of more local citizen groups than just about anyone else in the city. Through working with them, she gets to know the people themselves.

"I can tell a lot about people's lives by how they speak, what locations they want, and what their group is," Sanders says.

That's why, when Sanders finds out about two groups that might be able to help each other accomplish their goals, she often attempts to help them get in touch.

For example, when a man from the east side of Kansas City called looking for a meeting place for his brand-new anti-violence group, Creating a Safe Community, Sanders wondered if another client of hers, Anger Alternatives, an anger-management group, might be interested in connecting.

After obtaining permission from both groups, she put the two in contact.  

"I saw two groups that could help one another. It seemed logical. And compassionate," Sanders says.

There's always room for that.

About the Author

Jason Harper is the web content developer and social media manager at the Kansas City Public Library.
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The 2012 Publitzer Prize for Fiction Winner Announced

 The readers have spoken. Voting in the finals for the 2012 Publitzer Prize for Fiction has closed, and a worthy novel has been democratically awarded the highest prize in mock American literary awards. Where the real Pulitzer Prize committee left off, you, the public, picked up.

Congratulations to Jeffrey Eugenides’ The Marriage Plot, the landslide victor of the Publitzer Prize readers’ vote. Now, in addition to being a New York Times Notable Book of 2011, Plot has the official stamp of approval of the Kansas City Public Library’s uppermost echelon of fiction connoisseurs.

As a testament to the winner’s popularity, as of this writing, all print copies of Plot are checked out from our system (a CD audiobook is up for grabs at Central).  However, there are several copies of the first and second runners-up – The Submission by Amy Waldman and Open City by Teju Cole – available at various branches.

So, if you’re one of those who voted for Plot but have yet to read the other two, I suggest you get down to the Library. Or, alternately, click back to the many great Publitzer nominations tendered by your cohorts – that list was probably the best thing to come out of this little extravaganza.

Marriage Plot wins Publitzer

Because, after all, the Publitzer wasn’t about making a grand literary statement or saving American letters from the clutches of an elitist cabal (well, maybe just a little). It was about having a lively community discussion of the great fiction books that came out last year. And I think we accomplished that.

We couldn’t have done it without the help of our brilliant, discerning jurors: Kaite Mediatore Stover, Scott Wilson, Whitney Terrell, and Steve Paul. Be sure to read their nominations for, respectively, Salvage the Bones, Long, Last, Happy, The Marriage Plot, and Open City.

And this contest couldn’t have happened without you, the reading public. To show our gratitude, we entered all the voters' names into a drawing for a Readers' Advisory Prize Package of books hand-picked by Kaite.

The winner of the prize drawing: Kelly Fann. Congrats, Kelly!

What Did You Think?

Now, it’s your turn to sound off: What did you like/not like about the Publitzer Prize awards? Would you like us to do this again next year? What would you change about the contest? Who would you nominate for the jury?

You can give us feedback anytime – or lead the discussion yourself – on our Facebook page, Twitter feed, or Goodreads group.

Because as the Publitzer process demonstrated – if you’re living in KC and you love good fiction, you’re part of a reading republic.

About the Author

Jason Harper is the web content developer and social media manager at the Kansas City Public Library.
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Alphabet KC Contest Results: A Red-Letter Day

You found them in the beaches, you found them on the streets. You even found them in your school. The Alphabet KC scavenger hunt to capture photos of letter-shaped objects found around town is over, and the submissions have been dazzling.

Two weeks ago, we asked you to take a page from Stephen T. Johnson’s book Alphabet City, in which the Lawrence-based artist painted elegant reproductions of alphabet letters spotted in the urban scenery.

We wanted you to grab your camera, hit the great outdoors, and find letters wherever you could. We watched in amazement as the letters at first trickled, then poured in through Twitter, e-mail, and the mobile app Instagram.

Some were as straightforward as P-shaped railing or an F-shaped window frame. Others were less apparent, like a row of bike racks in a B formation, or criss-crossing train tracks forming a Z – or even a fine-art W spied by our friends at the Nelson-Atkins Museum.

The person who sent us the most letters would win a signed copy of Johnson’s book. We’ll announce the winner in a moment.

First, we’d like to highlight some of our favorite submissions.

Kitchen Patrol
Hats off to Robert Hatem, who crafted an entire alphabet from objects found in his kitchen. Rob’s letter-finding extravaganza began one morning at breakfast, when he noticed the yolk from a cracked egg dripping in the shape of a Y. The next day, he decided to make a run at all 26 letters, arranging objects in his kitchen into different shapes. He calls the resulting image “Kitchen Sink” (so named for the one thing not in it).

Kitchen Sink by Robert Hatem

School D-A(to)Z-e
We wish we could have come along for the ride when Pembroke Hill prekindergarten teacher Madison Rommel took her entire class on a scavenger hunt around the school to find all 26 alphabet letters. The letters Ms. Rommel and her astute pupils found ranged from a log-cabin A to a planter Z. Now that’s a way to spend a school day.

A by Madison Rommel's students

Z by Madison Rommel's students

Alfabeto Bueno!
One of the last stops Amanda DeLeon made before taking her family on a Mexican vacation was to see Stephen T. Johnson talk about his books at the Library on Friday, April 20. The DeLeons took their Alphabet City fever on holiday, and Amanda sent us postcards in the form of letters found along the beaches of Cancun, where her kids had a blast hunting letters in the sun.

O by Amanda DeLeon

So Who Won?

Well, unfortunately, though we loved all the great submissions, we do have to award a top prize. And once all the letters had all been collected, there was one contestant who stood above the rest.

Congrats to master alphabet hunter Emily Soulliere!

X marks the spot!

From B’s in the River Market to X’s in Westport, Emily and her children found 27 letters in locations all around Kansas City. In addition to finding a ton of letters, they succeeded in catching the exploratory spirit of the Alphabet KC contest. And that’s why we’ll award the Soullieres with an autographed copy of Alphabet City.

Thanks to all our contestants, including Bridget, Corrie, John, Bob, Abbey, Heather, and @Bigcomedown.

View a Facebook gallery of all the submissions.

Or watch the slideshow via Flickr.

The contest is over, but that doesn’t mean all the letters lurking in the landscape have been found. As our contestants found, once you start seeing letters, you don't stop. Plus, it's a great early literacy exercise for young readers. Why not let the #ABCKC hunt continue?

As the old saying goes: Where there’s a will, there’s probably an A.

A by Emily

About the Author

Jason Harper is the web content developer and social media manager at the Kansas City Public Library.
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Cast Your Vote for the 2012 Publitzer Prize for Fiction

You nominated, the experts judged, and now it's time to vote. It’s been a fast and rollicking road to the final lineup in the first ever Publitzer Prize for Fiction – the Kansas City Public Library’s democratically driven answer to the real Pulitzer committee’s inability to award a prize for fiction for 2012.

After collecting your nominations all week long, on Friday, we posted  the Publitzer readers’ booklist, which featured many thoughtful and compelling comments sent in by lit-lovers like you. It was a fantastic roundup of the fiction books that most resonated with our local reading community this past year. Seriously, if you've been looking for a good new novel to read, look no further.

Then, over the weekend, our panel of jurors – Readers’ Services Director Kaite Mediatore Stover, Pitch editor Scott Wilson, novelist and UMKC writer-in-residence Whitney Terrell, and Kansas City Star senior writer and editor Steve Paul – took all of your nominations under advisement as they deliberated to determine the finalists.

Now, it's up to you to choose the winner. Each of the books below received nominations from readers before the jurors selected them as finalists.

Finalist 1: The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides
Jeffrey Eugenides’s groundbreaking novel Middlesex won the real Pulitzer in 2002. Ten years later, he’s back with a story that juror Whitney Terrell describes as “a beautiful and extremely compelling portrait of college and post-college life.” (Vote)


Finalist 2: Open City by Teju Cole
Nigerian-American author Teju Cole’s debut novel, about a Nigerian psychiatrist who conducts a philosophical voyage across the streets of New York, won the Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award. Juror Steve Paul called it “highly readable and exquisitely alive,” while reader Daniel Szabo praised it as “intelligent, original, and beautifully written.” (Vote)

Finalist 3:  The Submission by Amy Waldman
As former New York Times journalist Amy Waldman set about writing her story of a fictional struggle to build a 9/11 memorial, she found her subject matter oddly mirrored in headlines as debate raged in real life over a “ground zero mosque.” Her ensemble piece about a city and country in spiritual recovery compelled readers and jurors alike. (Vote)


Vote Now for the Winner of the 2012 Publitzer for Fiction

Cast your vote through midnight tomorrow, Tuesday, May 1. On Wednesday, May 2, the winning book will be announced – and we, the people, can feel like winners for having shown the Pulitzer committee how to recognize a good book.

Giveaway Announcement!
Just to sweeten the deal, if you submit your name and e-mail along with your vote, you will be entered into a drawing for a Readers’ Advisory Giveaway Package of books and galleys handpicked for you by librarian Kaite Mediatore Stover.

About the Publitzer Coordinator

Jason Harper is the web content developer and social media manager at the Kansas City Public Library.
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The 2012 Publitzer Prize: Your Nominations

As our jurors prepare to hunker down and choose the finalists for  the first-ever "Publitzer" Prize for Fiction, it’s time to share what books you, the public, nominated.

Folks who have been following the race know that over the past week, the Kansas City Public Library has been conducting a campaign to undo the wrong wrought by the Pulitzer committee in giving no award for fiction for 2012.

We’ve been asking readers to nominate their favorite works of fiction from 2011, and our jurors would take your nominations and choose three finalists to be put to the vote beginning Monday, April 30.

We wanted you to be the faction that picks the fiction, and that’s exactly what you were. Well done.

As you dig in to what your fellow readers submitted below, check out the jury’s nominations:

Steve Paul: Open City by Teju Cole
Whitney Terrell: The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides
Scott Wilson: Long, Last, Happy: New and Collected Stories by Barry Hannah
Kaite Stover: Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward

 

The 2012 Publitzer Prize for Fiction Reader Nominations

Binocular Vision - Edith Pearlman

Binocular Vision: New & Selected Stories - Edith Pearlman
“Ambition. Invention. Language. Courage. All on dazzling but quiet display. Why collections of stories are so neglected, I'll never know. The breadth of situations and the imagination at work here are brilliant; her use of language, unparalleled. If she were Canadian or Irish, she'd be recognized by now. Only the Book Critics Circle seems to "get it." (Ditto for Jim Shepard -- my 2nd choice -- You Think That's Bad: Stories. Also brilliant and inventive and beautifully executed. If it weren't a collection of stories, it might have been considered as well.)” - Catherine Browder Morris


Bitter End - Jennifer Brown
“Jennifer Brown approaches the subject of abuse and dating violence in a way that is so real, it is like reading your own story. It unapologetically addresses real issues that girls and women face, and sheds light onto what has always been a hushed, dark secret. Well written and compelling the whole way through, it speaks to readers of many ages, and should not only be awarded, but shared with our daughters, sisters, cousins, nieces, and friends.” - Daffny Atwell

In the Garden of Beasts - Erik Larson
“It's a documentary-type book, i.e., non-fiction, but it reads like a novel. Really a fascinating read.” - Bill Pryor

The Language of Flowers - Vanessa Diffenbaugh
“This was definitely a page-turner and a quick read. The phrasing and rhythm of the novel holds one’s interests, and the velvety threads that bind the characters past and present with the meaning of flowers touched my heart. Yeppers, it's a winner.” - Carolyn Beldin

The Marriage Plot - Jeffrey Eugenides
“Exceptional writing, as always, from Eugenides, with a plot and storyline which morph from literary history to theological philosophy to college hardships while keeping a pace and intriguing group of characters in conflict.” - Michael Eaton

“In unpretentious, graceful, and deeply human prose, Eugenides crafts an epic of first loves. Churning in the crucible between college and adult life, the characters experience what it’s like to fall in love with the big questions, with people you have no business loving, with the aching desire for independence, and, in the end, they learn to love the consequences, too.” – Jason Harper

The Night Circus - Erin Morgenstern

The Night Circus - Erin Morgenstern
“I thought this book was a fantastic trip into a dream. I loved Morgenstern's writing style and never wanted this book to end. The mystery and allure of the story wouldn't let me put this book down until I finished. Loved it!” - Courtney Lilquist

Open City - Teju Cole
“Intelligent, original, and beautifully written.” - Daniel Szabo

The Pale King - David Foster Wallace
“It hurts to read, the way proper fiction should.”
- Brendan Murphy

Reamde - Neal Stephenson
“Because I could NOT STOP reading it.” - Jenne Bergstrom

Ready Player One - Ernest Cline
“Ready Player One is the quintessential American novel. It takes place in the future while glorifying all things 1980s. It's a hero's quest, an underdog's story.” - Sherry Lockwood

“This is truly a NEW story ... very different and intriguing plot that appeals to everyone from 16 to 60.” - Judy Mediatore

The Sisters Brothers - Patrick deWitt
“DeWitt writes a modern take on the classic Western that is both literary and enjoyable.” - Stephanie Chase

State of Wonder - Ann Patchett
“Patchett draws characters who are both complex and flawed. She keeps the reader guessing about their motivations up until the final chapter.” - Alison Kastner

 “This novel had everything I look for in literary fiction: beautiful language, an interesting story, and characters with depth.” - Angela Kille

Wingshooters - Nina Revoyr

Wingshooters - Nina Revoyr
“In the tradition of To Kill a Mockingbird, A River Runs Through It, and Snow Falling on Cedars, Revoyr's novel examines the effects of change on a small, isolated town, the strengths and limits of community, and the sometimes conflicting loyalties of family and justice. Set in the expansive countryside of Central Wisconsin, against the backdrop of Vietnam and the post-civil rights era, Wingshooters explores both connection and loss as well as the complex but enduring bonds of family.” - Marilyn James

Nominated Without Comment:
The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka – Pamela Jenkins
A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness – Emily Soulliere
The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey EudenidesNatalie Millard
A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness – Miriam Newman
State of Wonder by Ann Patchett – Kate Vilain
The Submission by Amy Waldman – Diane Martin, Susan Walton

Check back right here on Monday for the finalists!

About the Publitzer Coordinator

Jason Harper is the web content developer and social media manager at the Kansas City Public Library.
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The 2012 Publitzer Prize: Steve Paul Praises Open City

When the Pulitzer Prize board failed to award a prize for fiction this year, we came up with one of our own, the Publitzer Prize. This week, we’re letting you – the public – nominate potential finalists.  But first, our team of expert jurors will share their official nominations.

Last week, when the Pulitzer board failed to reach a majority vote, three finalists were summarily stiffed: The Pale King by David Foster Wallace, Train Dreams by Denis Johnson, and Swamplandia by Karen Russell.

To make up for the Pulitzerian failure, we’re asking  you to nominate your favorite fiction book from 2011 to enter the running for the Publitzer Prize. (Nominate now.)

Because any good fiction contest needs guidance from the experts, we’ve assembled a top-notch team of local literati to help direct the proceedings: Steve Paul of The Kansas City Star, Scott Wilson of The Pitch, novelist Whitney Terrell (New Letters writer-in-residence at UMKC), and our own Kaite Mediatore Stover, director of Readers’ Services.

Send in your nomination by noon on Friday, April 27, 2012. Then, our jurors will choose three finalists, which will be put to your vote beginning Monday, April 30; and on Wednesday, May 2, the Publitzer winner will be named.

Here now to tender his official nomination is Steve Paul, senior writer and editor for The Kansas City Star, who also offered his thoughts on the Pulitzer board's fiction snub last week in the paper.

Open City

Juror: Steve Paul
Nomination: Open City, Teju Cole

An immigrant wanders his adopted home and in the process tells the story of America in the world. Julius, the central character and narrator of Teju Cole's short and brilliant novel, is a young Nigerian psychiatrist in New York. He is smart and cultured, yet largely adrift. His tale winds through long walks around Manhattan, through Brussels, through music, literature and art, and through memories of his youth, as the son of a Nigerian man and a German woman. There is violence and there is awakening, and something near enlightenment as Julius confronts some of the truths of his experience. "Each person must, on some level, take himself as the calibration point for normalcy," Cole writes, "must assume that the room of his own mind is not, cannot be, entirely opaque to him."

Cole's novel, now out in paperback (for those still reading books between covers), was short-listed for the National Books Critics Circle fiction award and won the Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award for a first book of fiction. Opaque it is not. Highly readable and exquisitely alive it is. 

-- S.P.

There you have it. Check out Open City, and be sure to submit your Publitzer pick by noon tomorrow: Friday, April 27. And in the meantime, if you want to take in some of Steve’s wisdom on our own city, drop by the Central Library, where his exhibit Kansas City Architecture: A to Z is now “open” on the 5th floor.


Click to Cast Your Nomination for the 2012 Publitzer Prize for Fiction

Other Jurors' Nominations:
Kaite Stover - Salvage the Bones
Scott Wilson - Long, Last, Happy
Whitney Terrell – The Marriage Plot

Publitzer Video: Crosby Kemper III on freeing the fiction.

About the Publitzer Coordinator

Jason Harper is the web content developer and social media manager at the Kansas City Public Library.
Kansas City Public Library on Facebook    Kansas City Public Library on Twitter    Kansas City Public Library on YouTube    Follow KCLibrary on Pinterest

The 2012 Publitzer Prize: Whitney Terrell Trumpets Eugenides

When the Pulitzer Prize board failed to award a prize for fiction this year, we came up with one of our own, the Publitzer Prize. This week, we’re letting you – the public – nominate potential finalists.  But first, our team of expert jurors will share their official Publitzer nominations.

Last week, when the Pulitzer board failed to reach a majority vote, three finalists were summarily stiffed: The Pale King by David Foster Wallace, Train Dreams by Denis Johnson, and Swamplandia by Karen Russell.

To make up for the Pulitzerian failure, we’re asking  you to nominate your favorite fiction book from 2011 to enter the running for the Publitzer Prize. (Nominate now.)

Because any good fiction contest needs guidance from the experts, we’ve assembled a top-notch team of local literati to help direct the proceedings: Steve Paul of The Kansas City Star, Scott Wilson of The Pitch, novelist Whitney Terrell (New Letters writer-in-residence at UMKC), and our own Kaite Mediatore Stover, Director of Readers’ Services.

Send in your nomination by noon on Friday, April 27, 2012. Then, our jurors will choose three finalists, which will be put to your vote beginning Monday, April 30; and on Wednesday, May 2, the Publitzer winner will be named.

Here now, to offer up his personal pick from the past year is Whitney Terrell, New Letters Writer-in-Residence at UMKC and author of the novels The Huntsman and The King of Kings County.

The Marriage Plot

Juror: Whitney Terrell
Nomination: The Marriage Plot, Jeffrey Eugenides

Eugenides’ novel follows a trio of 1980s students through college and out into the world.  The book is arguably riskier than his last novel, Middlesex, which won the real Pulitzer prize. In that earlier novel, Eugenides’ protagonist was a hermaphrodite and outsider, engaged in telling the story of her (his) family’s immigration into the United States.  In The Marriage Plot, his heroine Madeline Brand is a classic insider:  a preppy intellectual from a good, WASP family who ends up falling in love with Leonard Bankhead, a mercurial but brilliant biology major.  In American literature, characters with Madeline’s background are usually played for laughs –  if not turned into villains.  But the triumph of Eugenides’ novel is that he never judges Madeline, nor does he trivialize his characters’ inner lives and concerns.  The result is a beautiful and extremely compelling portrait of college and post-college life that ranges in setting from Brown University to Calcutta, without ever losing its precision or its spirit of inquiry.

-- W.T.

Be sure to submit your Publitzer pick by noon on Friday, April 27.

Writers at Work Event:
Catch Whitney in person tomorrow night, Thursday, April 26, at 6:30 p.m. in the Central Library, where he will host a public conversation with Adam Johnson, author of the dystopian novel The Orphan Master’s Son, as part of the Writers at Work Series. (RSVP to attend.)


Click to Cast Your Nomination for the 2012 Publitzer Prize for Fiction

Other Jurors' Nominations:

Kaite Stover - Salvage the Bones
Scott Wilson - Long, Last, Happy
Steve Paul - Open City

Publitzer Video: Crosby Kemper III on freeing the fiction.

About the Publitzer Coordinator

Jason Harper is the web content developer and social media manager at the Kansas City Public Library.
Kansas City Public Library on Facebook    Kansas City Public Library on Twitter    Kansas City Public Library on YouTube    Follow KCLibrary on Pinterest    KC Unbound RSS feed

The 2012 Publitzer Prize: Juror Scott Wilson Nominates Barry Hannah

When the Pulitzer Prize board failed to award a prize for fiction this year, we came up with one of our own, the Publitzer Prize. This week, we’re letting you – the public – nominate potential finalists.  But first, our team of expert jurors share their official Publitzer nominations.

Quick re-cap: As true fictionados like you already know, last week the Pulitzer board announced that due to a deadlock in voting, no fiction prize could be awarded in this year’s awards. Three finalists were summarily stiffed: The Pale King by David Foster Wallace, Train Dreams by Denis Johnson, and Swamplandia by Karen Russell.

This week we’re asking you to make up for the Pulitzer committee’s failure by nominating your favorite book, any fiction work from 2011, to enter the running for the 2012 Publitzer Prize. (Nomination Form)

Now, because any good literary prize needs guidance from the experts, we’ve assembled a top-notch team of local literati to help direct the proceedings: Steve Paul of The Kansas City Star, Scott Wilson of The Pitch, novelist Whitney Terrell (New Letters writer-in-residence at UMKC), and our own Kaite Mediatore Stover, Director of Readers’ Services.

After you send in your nominations this week, our four jurors will choose three finalists, which you will vote on beginning Monday, April 30, 2012. On Wednesday, May 2, 2012, the Publitzer winner will be announced.

Meanwhile, the jurors have nominations of their own to make. These books aren’t necessarily the finalists, mind you – just books for you to consider as you decide on your choice.

Here now, to offer up his favorite fiction from the past year is Scott Wilson, editor-in-chief at Kansas City’s alternative newsweekly, The Pitch.

Barry Hannah - Long, Last, Happy

Juror: Scott Wilson
Nomination: Long, Last, Happy: New and Selected Stories, Barry Hannah

Barry Hannah told The Paris Review in 2004 that, decades after he gave up his premed studies for literature, he’d found pleasure in reading about the sciences that once stymied him. His interviewer asked, What’s the appeal? Hannah replied: “Awe and wonder for the savage and beautiful life around me. I’m drop-jawed like an idiot, and delighted. Unknown and hidden, ambitious tissue. I tell my students it’s living tissue we are wanting on the page. The rest is nonsense.”

Hannah died in 2010, but the ambitious tissue of his fiction lives on in the essential, unforgettable Long, Last, Happy: New and Collected Stories (published in December 2010, so let’s agree to call it a 2011 title). His sentences fulminate with jaw-dropping delights – Southern-gothic idioms spun on new axes, syllables tracing the palpitations of flesh, howls of churning appetite as laughter and weeping and death rattle. His narrators aren’t characters under glass. They’re in the room with you and they’re savage and beautiful (and, sometimes – hilariously, touchingly – idiotic). The previously unpublished stories give no indication that Hannah was feeling valedictory at the end of his life. They’re as searing, bog-sweaty and lustful as the rest, and as furiously American.

-- S.W.

There you have it. But don’t take Scott’s word for it – check out Long, Last, Happy yourself, and tender your nomination now for the first-ever Publitzer Prize for Fiction.

publitzer
Click to Cast Your Nomination for the 2012 Publitzer Prize for Fiction

Other Jurors' Nominations:
Kaite Stover - Salvage the Bones
Whitney Terrell – The Marriage Plot
Steve Paul - Open City

Publitzer Video: Crosby Kemper III on freeing the fiction.

About the Publitzer Coordinator

Jason Harper is the web content developer and social media manager at the Kansas City Public Library.
Kansas City Public Library on Facebook    Kansas City Public Library on Twitter    Kansas City Public Library on YouTube    Follow KCLibrary on Pinterest    KC Unbound RSS feed

Library Interview: People's Liberation Big Band on Battleship Potemkin

Silent movies were almost never silent.

Whether accompanied by a big orchestra, a thundering organ, a lone piano, or even some guy with a harmonica, there was always music and sometimes even sound effects. Early movie audiences quickly came to expect it.

The Library and the People’s Liberation Big Band will recreate the silent film experience with a screening of the classic Soviet silent feature Battleship Potemkin on Tuesday May 1 at 6:30 p.m. at the Plaza Branch, 4801 Main St.

Admission is free. The event will be preceded by a 6 p.m. reception. RSVP online or call 816.701.3407.

May 1 has long been known as May Day, a celebration of spring. But in the last century it was designated International Worker’s Day, which celebrates labor and left-leaning politics. The Soviets, of course, turned every May 1 into a major production of marching soldiers and flag-waving citizens.

Battleship Potemkin is right at home as part of a May 1 celebration.

Directed in 1925 by the visionary Sergei Eisenstein, the film was inspired by the real 1905 mutiny of a ship’s crew against mistreatment by the Russian navy. But while it was meant to promote the Communist cause, Battleship Potemkin has transcended its role as propaganda thanks to the audacious creativity Eisenstein brought to its telling.

The movie is regarded as a classic of world cinema and is particularly celebrated for its “Odessa Steps” sequence in which citizens gathered to welcome the mutinous crew are fired on by the Tsar’s soldiers.

Eisenstein brilliantly cut between the soldiers descending a long staircase and the chaos among the crowd below. At one point a helpless infant, its mother felled by a soldier's bullet, bounces down the steps in its carriage.

The scene is so well-known it has been imitated in other films, like the train station shootout in Brian De Palma's The Untouchables. Eisenstein takes an event that would have lasted only a few minutes and through innovative editing stretches out the tension and horror indefinitely.

Originally the film was accompanied by an orchestra score by the great Dmitri Shostakovich. Over the years many musicians have created their own music for the film.

Eisenstein had some specific instructions about the musical accompaniment for Potemkin: “The audience must be lashed into a fury and shaken violently by the volume of the sound. This sound can't be strong enough and should be turned to the limit of the audience's physical and mental capacity.”

Which means the 12 local musicians who make up the People’s Liberation Big Band have their work cut out for them.

People's Liberation Big Band (photo courtesy of The Pitch)
People's Liberation Big Band (photo
courtesy of The Pitch)

Luckily, they’ve done this before. They created a score for Battleship Potemkin several years ago, and for their library performance will use that as their road map – although there will be moments of pure improvisation.

“It’s not like we’re just winging it,” said Jeffrey Ruckman, who wrote the score with Brad Cox, Patrick Conway, and Jeff Harshbarger. “Even in the improvised parts we have a set of approved motifs to work from. You can’t just go off in an entirely new direction every time.”

His colleague Brad Cox, who plays keyboards, says he’d never even heard the original score for the film.

“From what I’ve read about it, it was kind of repetitive and dull,” he says. “But I’ve also heard it was written on a very tight deadline.”

To create a new score the four composers watched the film together and, says Cox, “called dibs on the sequences we wanted to score. I got the Odessa Steps...I called that one even before we started watching.”

Certain themes or musical passages will be repeated throughout the movie, often subtly altered by changes in tempo and instrumentation.

And, says Cox and Ruckman, audience members will hear snatches of old Soviet anthems and even the scores of popular movies worked into the mix.

The film will be shown in the Truman Forum at the Plaza Branch, with the musicians sitting on a low “balcony” to the right of the stage. From that vantage point they can see the movie while they’re playing.

“Playing for films takes some getting used to,” Ruckman says. “It depends upon where you place your attention. If I’m playing off the screen, if I’m totally into the movie, having to consider issues like the proper fingering is actually a distraction.

“But if I have a tightly-written score I have to follow, it’s kind of strange to glance up in the middle to make sure what I’m playing is coordinated with what’s happening on the screen.

“For Potemkin we’re unabashedly mixing these two approaches. So we’re both playing in the moment and playing from the score.

“It can get a little crazy.”

Performing the score for Battleship Potemkin are Stephanie Bryan (trombone), Mark Cohick (bass clarinet, oboe, English horn, and tenor saxophone), Patrick Alonzo Conway (bassoon and percussion), Brad Cox (piano, Rhodes piano, and accordion), Jeff Harshbarger (bass), Brenna Hayes (baritone saxophone), Nick Howell (trumpet), Forest Stewart (horn in F), Michael Stover (guitar, lap steel guitar, and mandolin), Rich Wheeler (tenor saxophone), and Sam Wisman (drum set).

RSVP online or call 816.701.3407.

About the Author

Robert W. Butler is a lifelong Kansas City area resident, a graduate of Shawnee Mission East High School and the William Allen White School of Journalism at the University of Kansas. For several decades he was the movie editor of the Kansas City Star; he now writes the Library's From the Film Vault blog. He joined the Library's Public Affairs team in 2012.

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The 2012 "Publitzer" Prize: Juror Kaite Stover’s Official Nomination

When the Pulitzer Prize board announced that there was no fiction winner this year, we came up with an award of our own: The Publitzer Prize. This week, we're letting you – the public – nominate potential finalists. But first, our jurors share their official Publitzer nominations.

Quick re-cap: As true fictionados like you already know, last week the Pulitzer board announced that due to a deadlock in voting, no fiction prize could be awarded in this year’s awards. Three finalists were summarily stiffed: The Pale King by David Foster Wallace, Train Dreams by Denis Johnson, and Swamplandia by Karen Russell.

As the literary world looks back in anger, we’re asking you to make up for the Pulitzer committee’s failure by nominating your favorite book from 2011 to compete in a vote to determine the winner of the 2012 Publitzer Prize. (Nomination Form)

Now, because any good literary prize needs guidance from the experts, we’ve assembled a top-notch team of local literati to help direct the proceedings: Steve Paul of The Kansas City Star, Scott Wilson of The Pitch, novelist Whitney Terrell (New Letters writer-in-residence at UMKC), and our own Kaite Mediatore Stover, Director of Readers’ Services.

After you send in your nominations this week, our four jurors will deliberate and draw up a list of three finalists, which you will vote on beginning Monday, April 30, 2012. On Wednesday, May 2, 2012, the winner of the first-ever Publitzer Prize for Fiction will be announced.

Meanwhile, the jurors have nominations of their own to make. These books aren’t necessarily the finalists, mind you – just books for you to consider as you decide on your choice.

Here now, to offer up her favorite fiction from the past year is Kaite Mediatore Stover, leader of the FYI Book Club and readers’ advisory expert at the Library.

Salvage the Bones

Juror: Kaite Mediatore Stover
Nomination: Salvage the Bones, Jesmyn Ward

How do I know it wasn’t, as Ann Patchett feared, a “bum year for fiction?” Because a gut-wrenching, eloquent, tragic and inspiring novel about a family from Louisiana riding out the horrors of Hurricane Katrina wasn’t a finalist for the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

If Jesmyn Ward’s 2011 National Book Award-winning Salvage the Bones wasn’t a contender, then the finalists that were in the running for one of literature’s most prestigious and coveted prizes had to be transcendent, exemplary, superior, and a host of other adjectives there’s a shortage of time and space to list here.

However, I would like to call the Pulitzer (and Publitzer) jurors’ attention to this powerfully written and moving story of Esch, the only daughter in a family preparing for the arrival of the hurricane that would change lives and landscapes and ruin fortunes and hearts.

In 12 chapters representing 12 days leading up to Hurricane Katrina, Ward carefully unpacks a story full of the hope and determination that drive youthful ambitions, no matter what size, and the bonds of a family that appear to be tenuously connected to each other, until these ties are tested by more than hurricane-force winds and water.

As unforgettable as the devastations of Hurricane Katrina may have been, Salvage the Bones is equally memorable for the layered characters, tense pacing, and assured prose.

– K.M.S.

There you have it. But don’t take Kaite’s word for it – check out Salvage the Bones yourself, and tender your nomination now for the first-ever Publitzer Prize for Fiction.


Click to Cast Your Nomination for the 2012 Publitzer Prize for Fiction

Other Jurors' Nominations:

Scott Wilson - Long, Last, Happy
Whitney Terrell - The Marriage Plot
Steve Paul - Open City

Publitzer Video: Crosby Kemper III on freeing the fiction.

About the Author

Jason Harper is the web content developer and social media manager at the Kansas City Public Library.
Kansas City Public Library on Facebook    Kansas City Public Library on Twitter    Kansas City Public Library on YouTube    Follow KCLibrary on Pinterest    KC Unbound RSS feed

Video: Crosby Kemper III Explains the Publitzer Prize for Fiction

The Pulitzer Prize board’s failure is your opportunity, says Library Director Crosby Kemper III. When it was announced that no Pulitzer award for fiction would be given in 2012, the Library launched a new prize in letters – one that’s ruled by the people.

The Publitzer Prize for Fiction is the Library’s bold attempt to pick up where the self-described literary tastemakers in New York left off.

As you know if you’ve been reading the headlines this week, a deadlocked prize board led to none of the three fiction finalists (The Pale King, Swamplandia, and Train Dreams) getting the majority vote needed to win the prize.

So we took matters into our own hands – specifically, by turning them over to you.

Watch this video message from Crosby Kemper III, then go to the nomination form below to tell us which book you’d like to see as a Publitzer finalist. On Monday, April 30, we’ll announce three finalists as chosen by our jury: Whitney Terrell, New Letters writer-in-residence at UMKC; Kaite Stover, readers’ services director at the Library; Scott Wilson, editor of The Pitch; and Steve Paul of The Kansas City Star.

The voting will begin, and the Publitzer Prize for Fiction will be awarded to the book that you think deserves it most.

Publitzer logo
Click to Cast Your Nomination for the 2012 Publitzer Prize for Fiction



About the Author

Jason Harper is the web content developer and social media manager at the Kansas City Public Library.
Kansas City Public Library on Facebook    Kansas City Public Library on Twitter    Kansas City Public Library on YouTube    Follow KCLibrary on Pinterest    KC Unbound RSS feed

Cast Your Nomination for the 2012 "Publitzer" Prize for Fiction

When it was announced earlier this week that no award was given for the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for fiction, we thought: Why not let the public decide? So, we cooked up the first-ever Publitzer Prize for Fiction.

It's The Kansas City Public Library's whole-hearted, half-serious attempt to pick up where the Pulitzer board left off. And this time, you'll decide the winner.

Why was no Pulitzer Prize for fiction given in 2012?

The Pulitzer Prize for fiction is awarded every year by a 20-member board that votes on a set of finalists chosen by a three-member jury. This year, the jury read 314 books and submitted three finalists: David Foster Wallace's The Pale King, Karen Russell's Swamplandia, and Denis Johnson's Train Dreams.

The board must reach a majority vote for one of the finalists to win. No majority vote was reached, so no Pulitzer for fiction was awarded. This has happened before; the last time was in 1977.

This year, it has not gone over well. Authors, publishers, and even the jurors themselves have been up in arms.

Book critic and Pulitzer fiction juror Maureen Corrigon wrote, "Honestly, I feel angry on behalf of three great American novels." Fellow juror Michael Cunningham (who won the award in 1999 for The Hours), chimed in: "I think there's something amiss in a system where three books this good are presented and there's not a prize." (Bookbeast.)

Perhaps the most trenchant argument of all was leveled by novelist Ann Patchett, who wrote in The New York Times: "Most readers hearing the news will not assume it was a deadlock. They’ll just figure it was a bum year for fiction."

Well, having sat in on more than a few of our book groups over the past year, we at the Library know it was not a bum year for fiction. And we know you  – the Public – know it wasn't a bum year for fiction, either

That's why we're taking nominations now for the 2012 Publitzer Prize for Fiction.

We've already assembled a great panel of jurors: The Kansas City Star's Steve Paul, The Pitch's Scott Wilson, the Library’s Director of Readers' Services Kaite Mediatore Stover, and local author Whitney Terrell, who is the New Letters Writer-in-Residence at UMKC.

They’re revealing their nominations throughout the week (see below), but they won’t be the only ones to determine the finalists. That’s where you come in.

Click the Publitzer medal for the nomination form. When considering your submission, try to adhere to the Pulitzer entry guidelines by nominating any work of fiction first published in the United States in 2011.


Click to Cast Your Nomination for the 2012 Publitzer Prize for Fiction

On Friday, April 27, at noon we'll count up all the nominations, and the jurors will select three finalists. Then, on Monday, April 30, we'll announce those finalists and put them up for a democratic vote. After the voting closes on Tuesday, May 1, a winner will be declared on Wednesday, May 2, 2012.

Unlike the Pulitzer, ladies and gentlemen of letters, the Publitzer will not succumb to a hung jury.

The Jurors' Nominations:

Kaite Mediatore Stover - Salvage the Bones
Scott Wilson - Long, Last, Happy
Whitney Terrell - The Marriage Plot
Steve Paul - Open City

Publitzer Video: Crosby Kemper III on freeing the fiction.

About the Author

Jason Harper is the web content developer and social media manager at the Kansas City Public Library.
Kansas City Public Library on Facebook    Kansas City Public Library on Twitter    Kansas City Public Library on YouTube    Follow KCLibrary on Pinterest    KC Unbound RSS feed

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