We read banned books. Do you?

It’s that time of year again–banned books week! Our intern Katie has a little something to say about it.

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It’s Banned Books Week (BBW), and First Amendment fans across the United States are celebrating their right to read To Kill A Mockingbird, Of Mice and Men, and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, among many other controversial classics. The American Library Association, which sponsors the annual awareness campaign, provides a list of frequently challenged books on their website. Over the last decade, wary parents and administrators have tried to ban books ranging in literary merit from Beloved to Captain Underpants. Fine, parents, so you don’t want your kids to be scarred by the original Scary Stories illustrations (though ten-year-old me—and, okay, present-day me—wouldn’t have liked those books half as much without the terrifying pictures), but a childhood devoid of The Giver or Bridge to Terabithia? So sad! Besides, isn’t it every parent’s right to decide what’s best for their own child?

I can understand the desire to protect young minds, and I agree that some of the books on the ALA list are questionable at best, but censorship is a slippery slope. David Ulin of the Los Angeles Times wrote a great piece about the dilemma on the occasion of BBW 2008. Perhaps it goes without saying that some of the very best books are the ones that open our minds and challenge our worldviews. “Yet we forget the world is complicated,” writes Ulin, “that it is full of opposing viewpoints and beliefs that, in many cases, we can’t accommodate, at our own peril. What to do, then? Sweep them under the rug? Or face them and consider what we’re up against?” In this, the Information Age, sweeping anything under the rug is such an impossible feat that it makes you wonder why people even bother attempting to ban books anymore—there is always something ten times as incendiary to be found on the Internet. And as Ulin points out, “even the most horrific things have something to teach us, something about human darkness, our capacity to go wrong.”

I don’t know if would-be censors will ever see it that way, but I am happy to live in a country where anyone has the right to attack any book they please and I, in turn, have every right to read the challenged material. That’s the beauty—and the irony—of freedom of speech. You can exercise your own civil liberties in honor of BBW by participating in a virtual read-out or just revisiting your favorite banned or challenged classic. I’m thinking Fahrenheit 451 might be appropriate for the occasion. How will you celebrate your right to read?

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SIBA 2011–Better late than never!

This post is a little late, but with three authors on tour and new updates in publicity for Stuart Dill’s Murder on Music Row every day (see the latest here and in the current issue of ForeWord Reviews), we’ve been too busy to tell you about our trip to Charleston for The Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance trade show.

As always, the show was a success. It was so great to see our friends from other presses and our sales reps and meet new booksellers and media contacts. I grabbed this shot of Angela with Emily from Lookout Books as soon as we got the booth set up.

Guess who stopped by our booth to speak with booksellers about her latest, The Ballad of Tom Dooley, and the new reprint of Ghost Riders we’re publishing in March?

Sharyn McCrumb, that’s who! We had a blast with her. I credit her with my favorite line of the whole weekend: “Writing is like being a hooker. Make sure you’re good at it before you start charging.” Good advice, no? Sharyn, it was wonderful to spend some time with you last weekend.

Wendy Dingwall, author of Hera’s Revenge (you’ll have to read her Library Journal review) joined us for a signing as well. It was so great to finally meet you, Wendy!

Stuart Dill, our debut mystery author, came to SIBA to speak to booksellers at a luncheon. He stopped by the booth for a quick photo op.

We ended the weekend with an author auction, where booksellers bid to take authors to dinner. Chef Stephanie Tyson, author of our latest cookbook Well, Shut My Mouth! The Sweet Potatoes Restaurant Cookbook, provided sweet potato pies for the event. Yum…

That’s all I’ve got for you, folks. If we missed you at SIBA this year, hopefully we’ll see you in 2012!

SIBA 2011 bound!

We’re looking forward to seeing our favorite indie booksellers and publishers this weekend in Charleston, S.C., at SIBA 2011! As usual, we’re running a special for independent booksellers who place orders at the booth (50% nonreturnable discount, 46% returnable discount, and orders of ten or more books receive an extra 4% discount).

Angela and I will be at booth E2 and E3 all day Sunday and until noon on Monday.  We hope you’ll stop by, say hi, and meet some of our authors (from our own press and our distributed lines):

John F. Blair SIBA 2011 in-booth signing schedule

We’re also bringing some sweet potato pies, courtesy of Stephanie L. Tyson, author of Well, Shut My Mouth! The Sweet Potatoes Restaurant Cookbook, to the main event on Sunday night: the Writers Block Auction Wedding. Can’t wait to see you there!

A sneak peek at Murder on Music Row by Stuart Dill

We’ve already teased you with photos of celebrities with the book (like this one of Billy Ray Cyrus) and rave reviews from Publishers Weekly and Library Journal, so today, we’re going to keep it simple. Enjoy this sneak peek at a chapter of Murder on Music Row, by Stuart Dill.

(And don’t forget to enter to win your free copy of Murder on Music Row! Check out this post to learn how to enter. Hurry, only one week left!)

Galley Giveaway: Murder on Music Row by Stuart Dill

Happy September, blog readers!

And what a great month it’s been so far! Stuart Dill’s Murder on Music Row:  A Music Industry Thriller (pub. date Oct. 1, 2011), by Stuart Dill, has received two glowing reviews :

“Remember your first John Grisham? Country music veteran Dill (he served as a personal manager for Minnie Pearl, Dwight Yoakam, and other greats) doesn’t miss a beat in this debut high-adrenaline thriller full of twists and turns.”
Library Journal, starred review

“Dill, who has served as the personal manager for Minnie Pearl, Billy Ray Cyrus, and other notables in the Nashville country music world, brings his insider’s expertise to his solid debut, a mystery thriller…the conclusion is stunning.”
Publishers Weekly

And then we were delighted to see that Laura Bell Bundy and Jo Dee Messina seem to enjoy the book as much as PW and LJ do:

Shocking! Laura Bell Bundy reading Murder on Music Row on the set. Courtesy of ChadDavisCreative.com.

Jo Dee Messina and the band can’t get enough of Murder on Music Row either! Courtesy of Randi Radcliffe.

So we want to kick of the start of September with a giveaway: an advanced review copy of Murder on Music Row:  A Music Industry Thriller. To enter for your chance to win this limited edition version, simply leave a comment on this blog post or go to our Facebook page and leave us a comment under the photo album “‘Murder’ on the set and in the studio.” We’ll close the contest at the end of the day on Friday, September 16, and announce the winner.

Good luck!