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Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Must Watch: V.E. Schwab: 'In Search of Doors,' Pembroke Tolkien Lecture 2018

Today I am working on an update to the list of my favorite and most useful genre resources. I will post it Thursday or Friday.

In the meantime, I wanted to share with you a video I watched yesterday, a video that was passed on to me by one of my favorite library people, Daryl from LAPL. A video that epitomizes everything we do when we provide RA Service to readers at the library.

It is author V.E. Schwab giving the annual Pembroke Tolkien Lecture. Click here or watch the embedded video below.

It says the video is an hour but her talk is less than 30 mins [questions come after]. If you work with any leisure readers, no matter the genre they prefer, you need to WATCH IT!

Schwab talks about how she became a Fantasy fan, and she begins by admitting she has never read Tolkien. I loved that part. What a way to start.

Her lecture is about how every single person finds their love of reading through a different doorway and that there is NO CORRECT doorway. There is no REQUIRED place to begin, nor should there be [nonjudgmental]. She also shares her person story of being a reader. Why she loves fantasy. Why it is the perfect genre for her.

But listening to one reader tell her personal story will also teach you so much about appeal, doorways, why we need to be nonjudgemental, and how to listen to our readers.

I also love at 20 minutes when she starts talking about how, “...there is no such thing as pure fantasy.” Fantasy has its roots in reality, she continues. She also says that the best fantasies engage with reality.

All fiction is “fantasy” because all of it is fake. All stories ask what if. All readers of fiction are looking for escape. Speculative fiction may be the most obvious escape, but all fiction does this.

And then she goes on to talk about being tired of the “standard” stories. White men learning to wield power. Women who only fit stereotypes. She straight up acknowledges why we need more diverse stories. Why we need to look forward always. Why the cannon must be added to. Why it is detrimental when it is static. Why she writes inclusively. She also makes this case for why we need more diverse stories without being confrontational. This is a wonderful argument to show to your colleagues who are hesitant to diversify their reading lists and purchases.

Watching this speech will help you to serve readers better. Yes, her focus is on “speculative” fiction readers, but you can use what she says to start there, but you can also move out, extrapolate to other genres. Extrapolate to all leaser readers, in general.

I also very liked the Q and A. She gets into even more detail about how and why she writes the way she does and the limits of “classics.” We need to make room in the cannon! She gets into more depth on all of the issues she brings up in her prepared remarks. She also addresses the entire concept of “every reader reads a different version of the same book.”

If you watch the entire video, it is like she is modeling the entire modern concept of RA Service, using herself as a reader and writer as an example. It’s extremely instructive and validating. Watch it!

Take an hour of your day and watch this lecture and the Q & A. I promise, you will take something away from her talk that will help you to do your job better.

Thanks again to Daryl for letting me know about it.

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