Periscope: An App for Authors??

When you work in social media, you have to be prepared for changes every time you open an app or type in a url. Think of every time you’ve opened up Facebook and Zuckerberg has adapted the format… again. You mutter to yourself or you use Facebook to post your feelings, as so many of us have done in the past. Many of the new apps that have been developed in the past year haven’t been my cup of tea. I’ve downloaded SnapChat twice and both times, got completely overwhelmed with it’s complicated functionality. And I’ve yet to master Vine. The idea of being funny in only six seconds feels incredibly difficult. I need at least 10 seconds to get my punch line out.

All that being said, I took a different approach when I started hearing rumblings about Periscope – an app that allows you to view live video streaming. I was immediately intrigued. With this app, you can experience concerts, gorgeous views, car rides with celebrities (I won’t tell you how long I watched Jason Biggs and Jenny Mollen) and more. You also have the ability to share your world with everyone by hitting the ‘start broadcasting’ button and letting everyone LIVE into your surroundings. Viewers who have the Periscope app open are able to write questions that pop up, visible to the broadcaster and all viewers and it makes it easy for them to answer. For example, I just opened the app and watched:

  • The Braves playing baseball
  • A plane ride over Vancouver
  • A tour of the Robot Expo at #DARADRC

The likelihood of me ever going to a Robot Expo before I started writing this was slim to none. But if I’ve ever in a conversation about robots, I can at least speak with some (very little) knowledge about them now that I’ve taken an insider look at what their expos look like. This app provides so much accessibility to “connect” that we decided to use it out when Twitter famous James Rebanks, author of, ThShepherd’s Life came to town last week. If you’re not following him on Twitter, you definitely should be: @herdyshepherd1

IMG_0980It wasn’t hard. We handed him our phone, opened the app, hit ‘start broadcast’ and waited for a few minutes while people joined. The great thing about the chat is that the second you start broadcasting, there is a tweet sent to your Twitter account saying that you’re over on Periscope waiting to chat live with everyone. It didn’t take long for people to start to roll in with questions about agriculture, sheep, family and more. For fifteen minutes (I think anymore would be too long), James Rebanks live chatted with people from all over the world. Granted there were some questions that came in that were a bit obscurer; boxers or briefs (answer: boxer briefs). He handled them like a pro and ignored the ones that he felt weren’t relevant or added anything to the conversation.

Some might say that it’s an app that is much too “social”, in some cases, I’d agree. No one should Periscope something that makes them feel their privacy is being violated, but I do think it’s got amazing opportunities to share those rare occurrences that don’t happen every day. Like ‘Periscoping’ some of the Judy Blume’s event when she comes to Toronto at the end of this month or sharing a stream of video of the new office we all just moved into last week. I think there’s some real fun to be had on this app if used responsibly. I can’t wait until the day, and it will come, when we start seeing authors embracing this app and letting us into their worlds, if only for 10 or so minutes.

What do you think of the app Periscope? Is it too much or interesting to you? Share with me in the comments below.

To Blog, or Not to Blog, That is the Question…

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Dear Reader,

I started blogging in 2011 to meet friends, join an online community about books and reading and to provide an inside look at some of the amazing opportunities I get to experience by working at a publishing company. In those four years, I’ve met so many of you face to face, I’ve got to interview authors I admire and best of all, I’ve got to write about books I have loved reading. But with all those amazing experiences, comes new responsibilities; writing schedules, promotions, expectations I’ve created for myself and new goals. I’ve been pretty good at balancing it all, a few minor slips on the blog, but really, I’ve made coming back here to write a priority. But lately, not so much. Posts that have recently been posted were written almost 3 months ago…

I’ve been really anxious about the whole thing. In an effort to help make a decision, I have been asking friends and family members if I should continue to blog to help make my decision. (By the way, if any of you are reading this, thank you for your amazing input). I even got rid of my cable recently, so I’ve had lots of time to sit down and just write. But every time I amped myself up to do it, I’d come to the computer and have nothing to write. It turns out that I’m really good at creating lists of all the things I could write about and I’m not so good about following through with actually writing about all these “brilliant” ideas I’ve created.

I know now that I just needed time to think about the direction of this blog and whether or not doing it continues to bring me joy or anxiety. Reading has always been my passion. In every sense of the word, I’m a reEder, but writing about reading and books allows me to gain access to a pretty amazing community, which in turn, brings me happiness. Not writing about the books I’m reading or about the amazing experiences I’ve encountered isn’t nearly as fun when I don’t have anyone to talk about it with. SOOOO, I’ve decided that I’m going to continue with blogging. It might not be as frequent as it once was and I might not follow through on challenges I’ve started (sorry to all you Green Gables Readalong readers), but I can promise that I’m not going anywhere.

So stay tuned and here’s to lots of blog posts in the future.

Reeder xx

Why a Book Narrated by a 13 Year-Old Had Me in Shambles

IMG_8079Oliver Dalrymple has the undesirable nickname of “Boo” in his Illinois middle school. The nickname originates because of his pale completion and hair that’s always staticky. At age thirteen, he’s more focused on the periodic table and scientific facts than hanging out with other people his age. In the first few pages of Neil Smith’s debut novel, Boo, a tragic event happens and Boo finds himself literally knocking on heaven’s door. Unaware of the facts and details about what’s landed him on heavens doorstep, he sceptically enters to find that his version of heaven contains young boys and girls who all appear to be the same age as him,  thirteen year olds. He quickly learns that although everyone looks the same age as him, some residents have been been in heaven for much longer, although their appearances don’t change. He also learns that each and every one of the people living in heaven is from America.

As someone who functions  on fact and logic, Boo/Oliver can’t seem to wrap his head around the logistics of this newfound world he’s entered. How did this happen? Why can’t he find his Mom and Dad and how can he convey to them that he’s alright? Why don’t people physically age? None of it makes sense. Then something crazy happens. He finds out that he’s not the only one from his middle school that lost his life that day. His classmate Johnny was also killed and he’s got a vendetta in place. Sure, Boo is distraught and gets upset knowing that he’s no longer able to talk to his Mother and Father, but Johnny has a completely different agenda. He’s determined and focused on who would take their lives. He wants answers and he wants them now. Of course, Boo and Johnny are an unlikely pair, as the two were not what you’d call pals in their middle school. More like acquaintances, but because of the unlikely circumstances the two find themselves in, they pair up to solve the mystery of their deaths.

When I first started reading Boo, I kept getting the same feelings I felt when I read Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones. Reading a book about children or teenagers entering heaven isn’t easy. That being said, besides the fact that both books are set in heaven, the similarities end there. This book takes a completely different path that isn’t always an easy path, but man oh man, is it imaginative. Neil Smith has written a book unlike any other I’ve read before. For instance, the first sentence in the book is,

Do you ever wonder, dear Mother and Father, what kind of toothpaste angels use in heaven.

I’m always mystified at an authors ability to think outside the box like Smith has done in this novel and I can say with full certainty that I’ve never thought of what kind of toothpaste angels use in heaven. The amount of detail and quirky elements weaved into Boo‘s plot had me on the edge of my seat the entire time I was reading the book, I really couldn’t put it down. From the beautiful and expressive cover to the bond formed between two unlikely boys, Boo was a novel written with a lot of energy and bewildering imagination that I think will have everyone talking. Fair warning, you will cry, so ensure you have tissues nearby when reading. Neil Smith’s debut fiction is on sale now. 

Why I’m No Longer Scared of the Term “Spinster”

I’m thirty-one years old.
I live on my own.
I do not own a cat.
I am not in a relationship.
And up until I read Kate Bolick’s memoir, I have feared that I will become a spinster.

9780385347136Originally, the term spinster, generated in fifteenth century Europe as an honourable way to describe the girls, most of them unmarried, who spun thread for a living. Since then, society has reshaped the term to become a disparaging, offensive term that is now defined by the dictionary as, “A woman still unmarried beyond the usual age of marrying”. Surprisingly, the dictionary does not define the term, “usual age of marrying” and after a quick Google search, it turns out that Cosmopolitan and BuzzFeed weren’t able to provide a definitive answer to that question either. Which led to my interest in Kate Bolick’s new memoir, Spinster: A Life of One’s Own. A book that’s described as, “a revelatory, lyrical, and slyly erudite look at the pleasures and possibilities of remaining single.

Kate Bolick has always been a writer, she’s written articles for The New York Times, The Observer and many other esteemed magazines that I could name that would make your jaw hit the floor. She’s currently a contributing editor for The Atlantic and now an author of her first book which challenges readers to reexamine what it means to be single by putting a microscope on her own relationship history and delving into the lives of pioneer women from the last century whose influences and way of living began to have such an impact on her life that she starts to mirror their philosophy of life. What do I mean when I say that? Well I think it’s important to share a little bit about the timeline of this book for you to get a better understanding.

The book starts with a young Kate Bolick who’s dating on and off with a man she refers to as “W”, she’s working four jobs and she’s just been told that her Mother is about to die. As she sits by her bedside, she starts to wonder about her future, about her life and what her Mother would do if she could have done things differently. After her Mother passes, Kate vows to take some of her Mother’s spirit in stride and focus on building a pretty outstanding resume. After some hesitation, she packs up everything (including W) and moves to NYC. New York is the town in which Kate begins to discover the woman she wants to be with the help of some pretty inspirational ladies. She picks up some work by Maeve Brennan, an Irish writer who received huge accolades in the United States, specifically New York and her life was forever changed. Maeve was a contributor for The New Yorker known as “The Long-Winded Lady”. It’s through reading some of her work (novellas, articles and essays), that Kate begins to mirror specific qualities about Maeve. She doesn’t do this consciously, she naturally starts to emulate Maeve’s confidence and self reliance. She then begins to find strength in how to articulate her new way of thinking about single-hood when she starts reading Neith Boyce’s work. Surprisingly, when you Google Neith, you get very little information, but a more specific search with a term I learned in Kate’s book, known as “Bachelor Girl” produced an article that Kate herself wrote about Neith in the New York Observer titled, “She Was All That: This Single Chick Broke the Mold“. She shares that as early as 1898, Neith had no ceilings,

I was born a bachelor, but of course several years elapsed … before my predestination to this career became obvious. Up to that time people acknowledged threatening indications by calling me queer, while elderly persons who wished to be disagreeable said that I was independent. [Their] prediction … has so far been justified. I did not marry. The alternative of course was a profession.

I’m only giving you a quick glance at two of the women that started to help formulate new ideas about the definition of the word “spinster”. She of course gives much more details in her book and continues her understanding by adapting policies from Charlotte Perkins Gilman (author of one of my favourite books, The Yellow Wallpaper), poet Edna St. Vincent Millay and novelist Edith Wharten.

Every one’s path is a different path, everyone has to find their own icons and their own inspiration, but the ideas and principles that Kate Bolick examines in her memoir, Spinster, make a very solid case about why everyone should reevaluate the message we’re sending when we label someone a spinster. What if it didn’t mean loneliness, cats and tv dinners? What if it meant time, what if it meant exploration and most importantly, what if it meant happiness?

For the first time in a long time, Kate Bolick’s memoir helped me to focus on the pleasures of what it means to be single. When I meet someone who’s the right fit, it’ll be great, I’m sure of it. But for right now, I think I’ll go sing Taylor Swift at the top of my lungs, make hot chocolate for one and watch Gilmore Girls for the 700th time.

Green Gables Readalong: Anne of the Island by L.M. Montgomery

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Once you’ve finished a book, you close the spine, take out your bookmark and find it a comfy, never to be touched again, spot on your bookshelf. Well at least that’s how the scenario plays out in my case. Sure, I glance at the book as I reorganize my shelf and I do that dreaded game of “should I keep it” game when I’m doing some spring cleaning, but on average, the likelihood of me picking up that book again is very slim. That’s why I’m loving doing this Green Gables Readalong. I’ve had eight mass market L.M. Montgomery books on my shelves since I was twelve years old and now for the first time in years, I’ve revisited them. I’m dusting off their pages and rediscovering old dog eared pages and highlighted passages. It’s part of the charm of doing a readalong with a collection you already know and love.9781770498624

When I picked up my copy of the third book in L.M. Montgomery’s Anne Shirley Collection, I discovered how much I appeared to have loved Anne of the Island. There were notes in the margin and a lot of circles throughout the book. As I reread this beautiful novel, I rediscovered my love of Anne’s adventures to Nova Scotia and how her path to self discovery takes place in the place I often refer to as home. In the opening pages of Anne of the Island, we read about Anne boarding a ferry to Nova Scotia en route to Redmond College, based on the still standing, Dalhousie University and the “quaint old town” of Kingsport, which is otherwise known as Halifax. Of course, a new town brings new adventures and new characters. Including my favourite, Philippa Gordon, a love struck young woman with a flighty personality and a carefree attitude. Her lack of direction and structure amuses Anne until she and Priscilla Grant decide to purchase a home to live in for their duration at Redmond College. I adored the pages when Anne and Priscilla have to sit down with the ever amusing Phil and explain that they won’t put up with her nonsense in their home.

In true L.M. Montgomery form, we don’t just read about a few months in Anne’s life, we span her whole four years at Redmond in which she travels home to Avonlea to check on dear Marilla and of course Davy and Dora. She also travels home to bury her cherished friend Ruby Gillis who dies of tuberculosis. When you bury a friend so young and so unexpectedly, it’s sure to shake you up and Anne’s world is a little bit bleaker. She finds solace in her schooling and her dear friends, including Gilbert Blythe. But Gilbert’s had enough of being just friends and finally declares his love for Anne, admitting he fell in love with her the day he pulled her red pigtail. Anne, unfortunately reveals that she just doesn’t feel the same way and strikes up a relationship with a fellow student named Roy Gardner.

But just when Anne thinks she has everything figured out, things take a turn once again and point her down a path she never thought she’d travel. Anne of the Island can easily be called my favourite book of the series this far; filled with charm, growth and love, we meet a striking young woman with a good head on her shoulders mixed with a familiar sense of the quirky Anne we’ve all grown to love. I can’t wait to read the next book in the series, Anne of Windy Poplars in which Anne Shirley has left Redmond College and Green Gables behind to begin a new chapter of her life in the “dreaming town” of Summerside.

Did YOU enjoy Anne of the Island as much as I did? Which is your favourite book in the series? Share with me below in the comments and remember to join the online conversations by using the hashtag #GreenGablesReadalong on all your social media channels.