Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Finding young readers online

Youngsters have definitely taken the warnings about the dangers of cyberspace seriously.  It's nigh impossible to market my YA book, THE TRAZ, directly to my target readership--I can't find the young teens on the web.

This is in direct opposition to the SciFi readership I'm targeting with SCHRÖDINGER'S CAT.  There all many conferences, forums, websites, facebook pages, online clubs, reviewers, blogs websites, etc. that cater to those into SciFi.  I could spend an entire day chatting up these readers without making a dent in the possiblities that exist.

I haven't be totally stymied in my search for the elusive YA reader.  I know many adults enjoy stories with young heroines and heros, so I've targeted them.  As well, I've promoted THE TRAZ to schools, libraries, social service agencies, and other adult groups, organizations, and individuals who work with youngsters.

One safe online site for teen readers is Teenrc (Teen Reading Club) www.teenrc.ca

I talked with Ellen, the summer co-op student running the site and got the scoop on teen readers online.

Q: Tell us a bit about yourself and about teenrc.

My name is Ellen, and I am this summer's coordinator for TeenRC (RC stands for Reading Club). I am a student enrolled in the Masters in Library Studies program at the University of British Columbia's School for Library, Archival and Information Studies. TeenRC is my summer co-op position.

TeenRC is run by dedicated librarians throughout the year, though our heaviest times of activity, and where programs are most actively promoted, is during the summer months. Other dedicated helpers include teen moderators, who show a strong interest in the site, are familiar with it, and help to moderate the site to keep it safe and fun for all.

The purpose of TeenRC is to encourage teens to read. TeenRC provides teens with a safe online venue in which to discuss their reading and literature‐related ideas. TeenRC's secondary goals are:
•to support teens in communities that have limited YA library services;
•to augment teen programs and services in libraries of all sizes;
•to inform teens about what libraries do and encourage them to become involved in their local
•to support teens to develop their critical thinking and writing skills.

TeenRC is for teens aged 12 to 18.

The history of TeenRC can be summarized in the timeline below:
2005 – Teen Summer Reading Club launches at www.teensrc.ca. Administered by BCLA, the program is aimed at BC teens and runs for the summer months.
2006 – Libraries from southern Alberta join the program.
2007 – Teen Summer Reading Club expands across Canada with more libraries from Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Yukon and Northwest Territories. The program starts to operate year‐round.
2008 – Manitoba libraries join. The annual theme is “I liked the book better.”
2009 – Teen Summer Reading Club officially changes its name to TeenRC and uses the domain www.teenrc.ca. Libraries from Quebec and Newfoundland join. The annual theme is “Read All About It!”
2010 – The annual theme is “Get Into Character.” GVPL assumes responsibility for the program.
2011- Public Library InterLINK assumes responsibility of the program. The annual theme is "Get Into Character, Act II."

Members can find four major areas on the site: 
  1. a place to submit to our ever-expanding booklists, which carry genres from 'books that make you think,' to 'banned books,' to 'adventures and thrillers' and 'weepers.' Booklists are where teens can submit book descriptions of books they want to see in our booklists. 
  2. Teens can also submit reviews of books in the 'reviews' section, where they exercise their critical muscle and expand upon why they loved (or hated!) a book. Teens who submit reviews throughout the summer will be eligible for prize draws of gift certificates to Chapters, and a grand prize of a Kobo reader at the end of the summer. We also give away books. 
  3. The third area where teens can be involved are in the forums, where all the book genres are represented, as well as a section on teens who need help with homework. Here, too, teens can submit their creative writing with others to share and receive feedback from if they wish.

Programs we are running this year are:

  1. Mystery Monday Chats: teens join a chartroom and guess the identity of a book character, played by a teen volunteer mystery guest. It's lots of fun, and teens love it. 
  2. Teens can enter a readers' choice fiction writing contest. The finalists' entries will be  posted online and fellow teens can vote on their favourite work.
  3. TeenRC Author Blog: 9 authors are featured this summer, invited by me to be interviewed, and they answer questions teens submit. One teen will win a signed copy of the book. The authors this year are: 
    • Eileen Cook 
    • M.T. Anderson
    • James McCann
    • Gene Luen Yang
    • Shelley Hrdlitschka
    • Chris Crutcher
    • Philip Reeve
    • Susan Juby
    • Wendy Philipps
Q: This is a Canadian site.  Can young people around the world access it?  Do other countries have sites like it?

Yes, teens from around the world are welcome to access the site, and can submit reviews as well as participate in the forums---they just won't be eligible for any prizes. From my understanding, some library systems also have their own book reading sites, that allows a teen to create their own profile, submit their reviews, etc. You can take a look at, for example, the New York Public Library's online summer reading program: http://www.summerreading.org/. TeenRC, however, runs all year long.

Q: There is a quite a bit of information on this site about security.  Tell us what measures are in place to keep young users safe.

Our privacy policy can be found here:

Privacy and security is very important to us at TeenRC. Moderator librarians and a few experienced teen moderators volunteer to make sure the forums are safe, that teens do not provide personal info, that no advertising takes place on the forums. I personally vet every registrant to make sure no personal info is included in their usernames. Our website software detects swearwords and converts them to other words automatically. Only site admins can access teens' personal info, and only for the purposes of TeenRC. These are some of the measures we take to make sure that TeenRC is a safe online space for teens to be.

Q: Which part of the site is most popular with young readers?

I would say that the most popular place for young readers is the forums, because this is where they can engage with others most, and have interactions with fellow teens who love books as much as they do!

Q: I notice there is a section for youngsters to post stories they write.  Tell me about that.

"Your Words" is a section on the forum where teens can submit lyrics, poetry, short stories, and more, to their peers. Their peers could offer friendly feedback on their work if the original poster asks for feedback.

Q: What opportunities are available for Canadian authors to participate in the site and how to they go about doing that?

Unfortunately, adults who are not librarians volunteering on the site can't participate on the site at this time. In the past, authors have dropped by for live author chats; this year, we have author interviews featured on the blog instead. If an author is interested in doing a live chat with teens online, they are free to contact me at info@teenrc.ca.

Q: Sometimes the site features books.  Is there a way authors can apply to have their books/featured?

Our site features books all the time.  There are books
featured specifically in the TeenRC blog that I have personally selected through collection development sources, and are not prompted by author requests, nor are they necessarily endorsements of authors' works. The teens and librarians are the driving sources of books being featured on the site. At this time, we do not accept requests from authors to feature their books on the site.

Q: Can authors ask children to review their books?

Participating in TeenRC is 100% voluntary, and teens choose which books they want to review. Thus, teens cannot be contacted by authors to review their books.

Q: Can authors search the site to see if the kids have mentioned, discussed, or reviewed specific books?

Yes, authors can look in booklists under their own name, or titles, to see if teens have reviewed their titles.

Thank you, Ellen for your time.

Eileen Schuh, Canadian writer www.eileenschuh.com

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

An emotional journey...

Read the behind-the-scenes account of the Writing of The Traz [click here] An emotional journey...

"...I wrote the BackTracker series during a very low and lonely time in my life...." 

Sizzle with me! Find Summer Sizzle Scavenger Hunt icon on my blog and be entered for a chance to win great prizes from Imajin Books

Look for a graphic like this sample, which doesn't count in the contest.

Visit my website. You may find another icon there! Published Books: The Traz

Eileen Schuh, Canadian writer