You Oughta Know: That’s Not What Happened by Kody Keplinger

Happy Friday Eve, Shelfies! Today I’m featuring another book I discovered at the Miami Book Fair (was this a fruitful event or what? My TBR pile is crying for mercy!), this time a Young Adult book. Like the others, I’d never heard of it before I stepped foot on Miami Dade College’s campus for this event. This book comes with a trigger warning for all my Highly Sensitive People (HSPs). 

During my time at the Miami Book Fair, I got the opportunity to catch up with my friend and By Her Shelf Contributor Alex, who lives and teaches in Miami. Alex was there with her book club, who had researched and planned for the fair down to bringing a rolling suitcase full of books to be signed by their favorite authors. Their primary focus was YA panels/authors, so I saw Alex in passing, but we did meet up and go to one panel together: Truth in Troubled Times: YA Heroes Speak Up. Kody Keplinger, author of That’s Not What Happened was on this panel. Alex and I were a little late, but the portion of the discussion I caught piqued my interest in Kody’s book.

That's Not What Happened

That’s Not What Happened is set three years after a school shooting. One of the shooting victims, Sarah, has become a martyr, as everyone knows she died proclaiming her faith. Or do they? Sarah’s best friend, who was there when she died, claims this isn’t true. The best friend struggles with her desire to tell the truth in the face of the potential consequences.

I’m adamant about one thing when it comes to reading: if a book has an intriguing premise, I pay little to no attention to the genre. This book’s premise definitely hooked me. When Columbine happened in 1999, I was week’s away from my last summer vacation before I started high school. I vividly remember the news reports Surrounding the shooting. Americans weren’t used to mass shootings at schools. We weren’t in danger of becoming desensitized to this level of violence.

I was one of those teens who bought a copy of She Said Yes: The Unlikely Marytrdom of Cassie Bernall. Bernall was one of the victims in the Columbine shooting who early reports claimed was killed after responding “yes” to one of the shooters when asked if she believed in God. The book was written by her mother, Misty Bernall. Cassie’s friend, who was next to her when she was shot, told a different story.

It’s clear the seed of the idea for the plot of this book came from Columbine, but according to what I gleaned from Keplinger’s comments during the panel, her book is more concerned with how the media covers tragedy, creates “inspiration porn” from survivors stories, and most importantly, how the stories of those involved in these tragedies get distorted in that lens. It’s also about having the courage to speak up. This book was written before the Parkland tragedy, but Keplinger said she was amazed by the way many of those students have stood up and used their voices in the wake of the tragedy. I’m sure my experience of Columbine when I was in the age group of the victims, and more recent school shootings will influence my reading of this book. It will be interesting to see the differences in how Columbine was handled versus how the events of this book are handled 17 or 18 years later in a very different America.

If an examination of what happens in the aftermath of a mass shooting tragedy, the struggle of a teenager trying to speak up and tell the truth when others would prefer she didn’t, or an examination of how our current culture packages tragedy for distribution sounds like something you’d be interested in, then you might want to give That’s Not What Happened a try.

Your Turn: Are you a Highly Sensitive Person? How does this effect your reading life? What iconic event in your lifetime impacts how you view fiction on a related subject?

Note: There could be things I’m not remembering about this book that could be a trigger or turn off for some readers. I haven’t had a chance to read this one myself or spend time discussing it with the author, and when it comes to books, I’m usually OK with material that would be triggering to others, so I can’t guarantee I did the best job identifying the major ones.

Another Small Step and Giant Leap: Podcast Update

Happy Hump Day, Shelfies! Tomorrow, I’ll return to books I discovered during the Miami Book Fair, this time with a Young Adult (YA) selection from a panel. Today, I wanted to update everyone on the By Her Shelf Podcast. So much has happened since I announced my idea to start a podcast 40ish days ago. If you’re interested in how the podcast sausage is made, keep reading. 

On November 2, 2018, I announced I had taken the first step to creating and launching the By Her Shelf Podcast (read all about it here). What happened after I bought the microphone? SO. MANY. THINGS! If you’re thinking of starting your own podcast, here’s what I’ve done to move toward my goal, and what I have left to do.

  • I emailed people I know/have worked with to be potential guests first. Starting with people I knew who were very likely to say yes was a great confidence booster and guaranteed I had at least a few guests. I also made sure to email one person who was a target guest, someone I knew online and occasionally interact with, but who wasn’t guaranteed a yes from. I’ll try a reach guest (or dream guest) once I have more episodes under my belt. I can share more about the content of this email with those who want to know.
  • I signed up for Zoom. I needed to find a good platform to record interviews with people who aren’t in my area. Some people suggested Skype, but through research I found Zoom was easy for me and guests to use and free for what I need it for.
  • I scheduled interviews with those who agreed to be on the show. 
  • I emailed the scheduled guest a Guest Prep Email. I emailed my guest an email before their scheduled show with a brief summary of the show’s premise, preliminary questions (things I like to know about guests before I interview them), questions they might want to think about and prepare an answer for in advance, and a list of things I need from them for promo (bio, picture, etc.). I can also share more about this if anyone is interested.
  • I tested my software, equipment, and “show flow.” Fellow BHS contributor Christina and I recorded a test episode to get rid of some of the butterflies and plan for some worst case scenarios (my enneagram 6 is showing, lol).
  • I researched and found possible theme music. 
  • I researched my guest. I checked her social media, website, books, and etc.
  • I prepared a one page cliff note for the interview. This page included the guest’s bio, questions to ask, and useful bits of information that I can use to follow a line of discussion.
  • I spoke with my guest for a few minutes before hitting record. Although I follow her on social media, I had never spoken to my guest before. I used the first couple minutes to get the jitters out and connect with her a little bit before we started recording.
  • I remembered to press record!
  • I spent a couple minutes after the interview thanking my guest and letting her know my favorite thing we were able to talk about. 
  • I realized I forgot to have her share where listeners can connect with her. Ugh. You live and try and learn to do better the next time.

Here’s what I have left to do with this episode:

  • Write show notes, including all relevant links.
  • Name the episode.
  • Create episode graphic.
  • Prep the newsletter for the episode.
  • edit and upload the episode.
  • Add theme music.
  • Work on preparing show for iTunes.

There are several things here I can elaborate on, and more to tell, but this is the basic gist of what’s going on with the podcast. I have another interview scheduled for Friday, more to schedule, and more emails to send. I want to be able to release a few episodes when the podcast launches, which will be early next year.

Your Turn: What reading/book related podcasts do you listen to? What would you like to hear on a book related podcast? What should I avoid?

 

Get in My Kindle: Meet Cute by Helena Hunting

Happy Tuesday, Shelfies! I’m interrupting my regularly scheduled programming (Highlighting books you oughta know from the Miami Book Fair) to bring you this special Get in My Kindle bulletin. If you’re a fan of romantic comedies that could win trope bingo blindfolded, read on. If not, I promise a more literary book will be highlighted…eventually.  

Title: Meet Cute Meet Cute

Author: Helena Hunting

Release Date: April 9, 2019

Description: Kailyn Flowers was always calm, rational, and controlled-until she ended up sprawled all over Daxton Hughes, the former actor she totally crushed on as a teenager. Then she did the unthinkable: She became a mortifying fangirl in five seconds flat, which may or may not have included professing her undying love. And oddly, he didn’t run away. In fact, their meet cute led to a friendship she never saw coming. Of course, she never saw his betrayal coming, either…

Now Dax needs her help. As guardian to his thirteen-year-old sister, he’s in way over his head. And though Kailyn hasn’t forgiven Dax, she isn’t heartless enough to make him fend for himself, either. Soon their friendly meetings turn into flirty dinner dates, and Kailyn can feel their chemistry is as explosive as ever. But how can she possibly let down her guard again to a guy who has heartbreak written all over him?

Why I Can’t Wait to Read: How cute is this cover? Even though I know you can’t judge a book by its cover, you have to admit this cover kind of nails it for a romantic comedy. I am a rom-com super fan. I will watch or read most offerings in the genre. What can I say; I LOVE love. But there are a couple things that make this particular rom-com my special brand of candy: second chance romance, friends to enemies to lovers, a potential smart mouthed teen, and, from the other description I read, a conflict between love and career. Sign me up!

Affiliate Links:

Paperback:
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Kindle: 
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Your Turn: Meet cutes–love them or hate them? Do you share my love of a good rom-com? Share your favorites with me below!

You Oughta Know: One Person, No Vote

Happy Monday, Shelfies. Today’s post is the second in my little series of Miami Book Fair highlights. It’s about one of my favorite parts of the fair. Enjoy!

After the Exchange for Change presentation I chronicled in my previous post, I was in great spirits for my next stop: a panel featuring National Book Award Finalists in Non-fiction. While all three authors and books were phenomenal and deserve their own spotlight, Dr. Carol Anderson and her book, One Person, No Vote, stood out to me the most. Dr. Anderson is a dynamic, engaging speaker, and her book, while political, tells the story of a moment in time with passion and vivid detail I didn’t expect from the genre.

One Person, No Vote

One Person, No Vote: How Voter Suppression is Destroying Our Democracy focuses on

the rollbacks to African American participation in the vote since the 2013 Supreme Court decision that eviscerated the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Anderson explains how voter suppression works, charts the passing and enacting of voter suppression laws since this ruling (known as the Shelby ruling), and explores the activism and organizing geared toward restoring the basic right to vote to all Americans in the lead up to the 2018 mid-term elections.

Since this talk was occurring shortly after the midterm elections had taken place (though Florida was still doing recounts. Sigh), Dr. Anderson’s book opened the discussion. Dr. Anderson’s opening was good; so good, in fact, the whole room burst into spontaneous applause after she read a passage from her book detailing the 2017 special senate election in Alabama.

I have to be honest: when I first heard the title of this book, I groaned inwardly. I was (and am) suffering from political news fatigue. I’m not an activist; in fact, I ended up in a heated discussion around the 2016 election because I said I had no intention of marching or protesting. I read books to escape into fictional worlds, deep dive into intimate stories of someone’s life, and learn something new, not to ingest more of the distressing political climate. Add to my political news fatigue the fact most books on history, even recent history, give me unpleasant flashbacks to a horrible Honors American History class that nearly shattered my liking of the subject, and you have a huge bowl of No Thanks I’ll Pass.

However, there were a few things about Dr. Anderson’s book that made me buy a copy.

1)Her writing style. She didn’t write the dry political discourse I was expecting, but a nuanced look at an issue that isn’t being openly addressed. As someone who’s been named a Guggenheim Fellow in Constitutional Studies, and is the chair of African American Studies at Emory, Dr. Anderson knows this subject. She has the intellectual pedigree to write intelligently on voter suppression, but more importantly, she has the skill to bring to life the personalities and events shaping this discussion. She found the story, and she tells it well.

2) As a citizen of the United States who regularly exercises my right to vote, I was appalled at all the things I didn’t know were being used to hinder others from doing the same. I had no idea the Shelby ruling had such an impact on the protections afforded under the Voting Rights Act. I have family members in the states she cited as habitual offenders when it comes to voter suppression. I’ve heard them complain about many of the things she wrote in her book, but I never thought of these inconveniences as voter suppression. As Dr. Anderson pointed out, many of the tactics used are worded or presented to seem perfectly reasonable until you step back and see the intended effect. As someone who hates being uninformed, especially about one of my constitutional rights, I felt compelled to by this book and educate myself on what’s happening.

If you’re interested in constitutional law, voter suppression, politics, or one of the major issues that influenced the recent mid-term elections, Dr. Anderson’s book might be a good starting place. You can grab a copy at the links below.

Kindle:

Hardcover:

 

Paperback:

Your Turn: Have you read a book on a topic or in a genre you usually avoid? Were you pleased with your decision or did you regret it?

You Oughta Know: Don’t Shake the Spoon Literary Journal

On November 17th, I got to attend the Miami Book Fair for the first time. I didn’t get toDon't Shake the Spoon spend nearly as much time exploring and attending talks as I would have liked, but I’m profiling a couple of the sessions I attended and books I came across during my brief day experiencing the fair. As I’ve been processing everything I was exposed to and thinking of how I wanted to share it, the first thing I knew I had to share, the thing I wanted everyone who didn’t experience it to know about, was Exchange for Change and their literary journal, Don’t Shake the Spoon.

Before hearing about them at the Miami Book Fair, I didn’t know Exchange for Change existed. If you’re similarly unaware, here’s the description of the program from their website:

The nonprofit Exchange for Change teaches writing in prisons and runs letter exchanges between incarcerated students and writers studying on the outside.

Through this program, many inmates are learning to express themselves and wield the power of the written word. I’m absolutely here for a program that brings the power and dignity of being able to express yourself and share your story to those who might have never known that power.

Don’t Shake the Spoon is a literary journal filled with poems, essays and stories produced in the courses taught by Exchange for Change. They are currently selling their first volume, which I immediately purchased after hearing several pieces performed by guest speakers and volunteers. Listening to the pieces read at the fair and reading through the pieces in the journal, I’m struck all over again at the immense amount of talent existing within people that many have gone their whole lives not realizing they have. I walked away wanting to do something to facilitate this exchange of words and world views, to cultivate a conversation about our justice system, and to just be a part of something that can change someone’s perception of their freedom even in imprisonment.

I’m not attempting to argue about the how’s and why’s of people ending up in prison. I realize the conversations around rehabilitation and prison reform are much broader and nuanced than a simple post can address, and the answers much more complicated than the questions make them seem. What I am attempting to do is to shed a little light on what I think is an amazing literary journal, and an amazing endeavor undertaken by Exchange for Change.

If you’re interested in own voices, then I suggest you give this journal a try. If you’re in the Miami Area and are interested in seeing the students perform their original works at one of the upcoming graduations, or you want to get involved with Exchange for Change, please visit their website.

Stay tuned to find out how one session with National Book Award Non-Fiction Finalists piqued my interest in a topic that usually leaves me with extreme fatigue.

Your Turn: What wonderful book have you recently stumbled upon? Share it in the comments!