My ears are bleeding! It’s down to the listening wire for Selected Audiobooks — I’m taking the next ten days off, hoping to finish up the nominated titles remaining on my list. Let’s see: Six books. Hours of listening: 44:22. So, that’s four hours and 42 minutes of listening each day. You understand about the ears?

Here’s your invitation to come observe our committee’s deliberations at Midwinter next month. Last year (my first year) we talked away for hours without any visitors! Of course, the room we were in was way overheated and a hardworking and painfully squeaking escalator was right outside our door. There were a few people willing to brave the conditions — mostly from publishers, so we’d love it if we had a few fans from the listening public sitting in.

Here’s our schedule:

Friday, January 11. 7:30 to 10:30 p.m. (possibly winding up early)
Saturday, January 12. 1:30 to 5:30 p.m.
Sunday, January 13. 8 a.m. to noon.

We’re at the Crowne Plaza Hotel (Number 4 on your hotel map) in the Delaware Room.

No RSVP required.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Greetings … inspired by the Best of 2007 lists that have recently come out from a bunch of publications (Publishers Weekly, Kirkus and the New York Times are what I’ve seen [My computer has forgotten my SLJ password and so have I, so I haven’t seen its list, but according to Fuse#8 it’s out too]), here is my highly personalized list of favorites from this year’s listening:

  • Before I Die by Jenny Downham, narrated by Charlotte Parry
  • Bloody Jack by L.A. Meyer, narrated by Katherine Kellgren
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling, narrated by Jim Dale
  • Larklight by Philip Reeve, narrated by Greg Steinbruner
  • Mimus by Lili Thal, narrated by Maxwell Caulfield
  • The Off Season by Catherine Gilbert Murdock, narrated by Natalie Moore
  • Soul Eater by Michelle Paver, narrated by Ian McKellen
  • Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, narrated by Joel Johnstone and Debra Wiseman
  • The Wednesday Wars by Gary L. Schmidt, narrated by Joel Johnstone
  • What is the What by Dave Eggers, narrated by Dion Graham

(Bear in mind, of course, that I’m not done listening, there may be other gems awaiting me.)

Our nomination deadline is December 1 (that’s next Saturday!). If there’s an audiobook that you’ve enjoyed — published this year or last — and you don’t see it on our most recent list of nominations, be sure to nominate it yourself. We might have already listened and decided not to nominate it, but your vote might change our minds!

Keep on listening!

Happy Teen Read Week! My library is hosting Laurie Halse Anderson next week for our fifth [?] Teen Author Lecture, and for the first time, we appear to be close to selling out! In her honor, I listened to her latest, Twisted, which was a very powerful book (although why its moniker is Speak for boys I just don’t know … they are so different). The audio version was good; and therein lies this posting.

I’m worried. Well, not worried worried. But there are just 18 days left before Selected Audiobooks closes the door on 2007 — any audiobooks that arrive after this date won’t be considered for inclusion on the 2008 list. The list of titles we’re considering stands at 267, and we’re probably down to one or two more small deliveries.

But quite frankly, out of that list of 267, the standouts have been few and far between. Our nominations number just 32, not quite 12% of the total, and I’m worried that we’re not going to have much to discuss come January. (See, on the scale of things, that’s not a lot to worry about, but still …)

And Twisted kind of represents most of the 235 titles that haven’t been nominated (although someone on the committee has until December 10 to do so, should she wish to): It’s a well-written, interesting novel, a professionally produced audiobook, good narrator who tells the story with emotion and character. A workmanlike job. A slightly entertaining way to spend six-and-a-half hours, but nothing that makes you want to pull out the earbuds, grab a teenager, pop the earbuds in their ears and say .. “you gotta listen to this!”

And I want to feel that way about more than 32 audiobooks! It also makes me intensely curious about the Odyssey Committee — are they feeling the same way? Have they found some really great audiobooks? Which one are they going to pick?

Here’s post no. 2 from Selected Audiobooks …

I’m not a subscriber to YALSA-BK, but some of my committee colleagues read it, and wrote to the Selected Audiobooks listserv about a recent spate of postings about audiobooks and whether it’s appropriate for teens to listen to (as opposed to reading) required and/or summer reading titles.

They noted that that discussion soon morphed into one about favorite audiobooks, and they realized that many of the books that YALSA-BK posters had said were their favorites had not – in fact — risen to the top for them. (In our listserv discussions about the YALSA-BK listserv discussion, no titles were mentioned, so I truly don’t know which books anyone here is talking about.) One colleague wondered if it was appropriate for a member of Selected Audiobooks to write about audiobooks that she’s enjoyed (and perhaps nominated) in a public forum like YALSA-BK. Is she inappropriately sharing what should remain an internal discussion and/or skewing an electronic conversation by posting an opinion as a member of our committee? Are we being unduly influenced by others’ opinions when we read reviews or listservs like YALSA-BK?

I leapt in with “heck, no!” to this query, since our committee deliberations are public (although our listserv discussions are not), and any of our opinions are just that – our own opinions. I went on (because I do go on and on …) to say that I thought that we represented the larger YALSA membership as committee members and that to share our opinions about why we thought something was great (or not so) as an audiobook was – in fact – a service to the membership. I share my opinions freely – and fully identified as my opinions – on my blog, which I am shyly sharing with you today [but for some reason the YALSA blog software doesn’t like blogspot, so it’s not linking here, so here’s how you find it: readingwithmyears dot blogspot dot com]. I am sharing shyly, because my blog is very basic and is not nearly as entertaining as Betsy Bird’s or Tasha Saecker’s Kids Lit or Hip Librarians [whose blog address doesn’t make the YALSA blog software happy either, but can be found by Googling hip librarians] or some other blog I don’t know about. I also said that I found reading others’ opinions helped me to consider other aspects of a book that I had overlooked or dismissed for one reason or another. I say, bring on all opinions!

But, truly what we want to know is … what do you think? Should we post our thoughts about audiobooks in public forums like YALSA-BK? Should we avoid all reviews and postings about titles we’re considering? Why don’t other committee members (BBYA, most notably) post to book discussion forums?

Posted by Lee Catalano

I’m late … I’m late …

Greetings YALSA blog readers … apologies for the lengthy silence from Selected Audiobooks. After ALA, I went on a nearly month-long vacation, and since coming back (a month ago! eek!), I’ve been attempting to get out from under the pile of stuff that accumulated in my absence.

I have a couple things to share with you today, so I’m going to post in two parts (I do have a problem keeping these entries short). Firstly, as I reported in such a hurry during ALA, we had asked the YALSA board to approve a change in the committee’s Policies and Procedures — particularly the criteria requiring “professional production quality” and “correct pronunciation of all text words.” We asked for and received approval for more flexibility in our evaluation criteria, and our revised policies now include the following sentence: “However, a title would not necessarily be disqualified if an error is deemed by the committee to be minor when evaluating the recording as a whole.”

[Of course, this change is not yet evident on our Policies and Procedures webpage. Oops! I hope the YALSA Board can get right on that?]

Actually, more that a little updating of that page is required: our posted nomination list hasn’t changed for nearly five months. We are now up to 27 nominations … I tried to get through all of the ones I hadn’t listened to while on vacation, but I’ve still got eight to go! I did, however, fly through Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, as I was deeply jet-lagged from my trip to China and few things make those wee hours fly by than listening to Jim Dale.

So, I hope that the powers that be can get that page updated too.

In the meantime, here are a few other nominated titles that I’ve enjoyed: The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl, Mao’s Last Dancer (Young Readers Edition), Soul Eater (Book 3 of the Chronicles of Ancient Darkness … get your Ian McKellen fix right here!), and Waves.

Posted by Lee Catalano

So, this is Lee Catalano, blogging for Selected Audiobooks. I told Linda that I would blog at the conference … although I am pretty technophobic beyond all but the more basic blogging. [For example, Linda asked me if I would Twitter … and I said no idea!] I promised Linda one entry because I knew I would find a few moments at the Internet center here … but who knew that it would take me until today (Monday at 3:30) to get here! Plus, I have to finish this up fast, so I can mail my parcel off at the Post Office (conveniently located right next to the Internet center) and then dash over to Penguin so I can have Nick Hornby sign my ARC of Slam. (Thanks, YALSA for that precious book!)

Just a brief comment on Nick Hornby who read to a standing room only crowd at the Live! stage this afternoon. He was great and the book sounds outstanding! And — inquiring (listening) minds want to know — when will we get the audiobook version, read by Nick?

So, back to Selected Audiobooks … as promised. And, quite frankly … not much to report. We had a lovely social get together one evening, where the oldies (such as myself) got to meet the three newbies on our committee. Each of whom is passionate and opinionated — hooray! I’m looking forward to lots of discussion in January. Already, we’ve got some controversial nominations (WHY oh WHY … did you nominate that book!?!?!?!).

We met the next day to go over some housekeeping (and I can’t — unfortunately — report here on the change we proposed to the YALSA board about our evaluation guidelines on pronunciation because I don’t know the outcome of the Board’s vote … more on that later this summer), and then we got to discuss a few titles that most of us had read. A rep from Listening Library sat in on our discussions — which was actually quite distracting, because we were plying him with questions about Harry Potter VII. And, believe me, beyond a few tidbits, his lips are sealed (I think he had to sign something …).

Mostly we used our time to get acquainted, and although I already knew what thoughtful and interesting women we were via email, it was great to put a face to a name. We exchanged strategies about how to get to all the books we have to listen to … and said goodbye until Philadelphia.

But, don’t forget that you can nominate a favorite audiobook here. Please do so … we so want to know what you find great!

Enjoy the rest of Annual. I’m off tomorrow on a Libraries Serve Communities jaunt weeding the collection at a local high school. More soon …

This is Lee blogging for Selected Audiobooks, and I have been tardy in my entries lately … sorry for the long break. I’ve been busy … listening 😉

I’ve got the audio version of Hattie Big Sky in my CD player now and have come to the part where she learns from her Uncle Hoyt that the Arlington, Iowa newspaper will pay her $15 for her monthly submissions about life on her Montana claim. That reminded me of my editorial responsibilities! Nobody’s paying me, of course … but still, I agreed to slip in a word or two on a regular basis.

I really appreciated your responses to my last entry [insert red face here] on April 24 about the production errors and how we evaluate audiobooks that have them. We’ll be having a discussion at Annual about the pronunciation errors, so I’ll update you when we have made a decision.

Speaking of Hattie Big Sky … there’s an error in the book (that also showed up the audiobook) where Hattie’s uncle — who willed her his Montana claim — is called by two different last names (Brooks and Wright). I asked a friend on last year’s Newbery Committee about it, but she ain’t saying nuthin’ [no surprise there]. I have to say, I’m glad we have a more open process for our list.

One of the treats for me at our discussions at Midwinter 2007 was having a couple of the audiobook publishers sit in. They seem truly interested in what we have to say — which means that maybe they are taking our thoughts on what makes a good audiobook back to the studio to make even better audiobooks.

There are so many more publishers of audiobooks than there were when I began listening to them — only about five years ago! I remember when our shelves were dominated by the red covers from Recorded Books and there were just a handful of narrators that you heard over and over again. Listening Library (Random House/Books on Tape) was the only other publisher on our shelves in bulk just a few years ago … but I don’t remember if those titles had a distinctive cover like the Recorded Books books.

Anyway, now there’s so many more … and most of them are doing books for children and teens (hooray!). In the past year and a half, I’ve gotten packages from the folks at Full Cast Audio, from Brilliance Audio (who snagged John Green’s two titles), from Scholastic Audio [whose website is somewhat impenetrable], from Bolinda Audio (or Bolinder as the Aussie narrators pronounce it), from BBC Audiobooks, and — just the other day, I got Pirate Jack from Listen and Live Audio. And they’re all creating great spoken performances: audiobooks with music, and with new — and younger — readers. And other stuff too … we just got Secrets of a Civil War Submarine which comes with an “enhanced CD featuring photos, maps, and illustrations from the book.”

Of course, when the “reading” experience becomes more than an aural one, is that something we consider when evaluating the book? Per usual, the guidelines are one step behind the innovators. Something else to discuss at Annual, I guess!

So, here’s an invitation to all readers of the YALSA blog to stop by our meeting at Annual. It’s from 1:30 to 5:30 p.m. on Sunday, June 24. We’re meeting in the Hart Room of the JW Marriott. There’s no discussion of specific titles on our agenda, but we’re a chatty group, so who know what might come up!

The crew of Selected Audiobooks has been listening avidly for the past month, and we’ve been coming across a number of publisher errors. Such errors — seemingly trivial as, for the most part, they can pass right by all but the most careful listener — immediately toss a book out of consideration. It’s so disappointing to come across, particularly if it’s a title you’ve really enjoyed.

Selected Audiobooks is charged with creating a list of titles that demonstrate “professional production quality” and here are some of the errors we’ve heard this year:

  • In Marie, Dancing by Carolyn Meyer the author concludes with an afterword. Following the narrated afterword, the book’s announcer (a different voice) comes on and says, “The End. [Credits] We conclude this book with the following author’s note. [pause] That was a note by author Carolyn Meyer …
  • In both Haters by Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez and Alabama Moon by Watt Key, a brief phrase of the story is repeated immediately following its first record of the phrase. (These are hard to catch, and I suspect some do get by us.)

Our list also requires “correct pronunciation of all text words.” (I’m quoting from our policies and procedures.) Correct pronunciation is a little trickier than production errors, of course, and this year we’ve been having discussions about:

  • Katana. The dictionary says it’s pronounced with the accent on the first syllable. In two of the titles under consideration, it’s been pronounced with the accent on the second syllable. If the reader is consistent on a foreign word, is it wrong?
  • Chick-Fil-A. In the book where this appeared, the reader pronounced it chick – feel – ah. I thought it was because the character speaking was making a derogatory comment about lesbians and the LPGA, but some of my colleagues think the reader just said it wrong. This same narrator refers to the novel Robinson Caruso [Crusoe … did I need to tell you that?] several times as well, so she clearly needs some production guidance.
  • Penchant. This comes up in Joyce Carol Oates’ After the Wreck … which I haven’t listened to yet. Do Americans pronounce this word the “French” way?

All food for thought in the audiobook listening world. Your thoughts are welcome!

Finally, the 2007 Selected Audiobooks Committee eliminated from consideration two of our favorite titles because of pronunciation errors:

  • In B for Buster, narrator Jeff Woodman pronounces magneto using a short e. One of our listeners — with military experience — insisted that it was pronounced with a long e. I, and others, thought that Woodman was pronouncing it with a British accent, so we went to the authority: The OED — which has the coolest pronunciation guide [although it does take awhile to understand it] — says that both countries pronounce it with the short e.
  • And perhaps most disappointingly for some audiobook listeners, we couldn’t put Sissy Spacek’s narration of To Kill a Mockingbird on our list because — in the excitement of narrating the trial — she pronounced the word gavel as gravel.

So what do you think? Are we too petty? Should we eliminate something outstanding because of one lousy error?

Hello from Selected Audiobooks! As you may be able to tell, I’ve just finished listening to Wintersmith, the third in Terry Pratchett’s Tiffany Aching series. I nominated it for consideration by our committee, because — to me — it fits the bill of a great audiobook: a book that is enhanced by reading it aloud.

When you hear narrator Stephen Briggs read — particularly the Nac Mac Feegles in that wild Scottish accent — most of us get a whole new level of understanding and appreciation for those wacky characters; one that we wouldn’t have were we just reading it to ourselves (unless you had a Scottish accent, of course!). Now granted, the Wee Free Men are pretty lively in print, but Briggs gives them a personality that is utterly enjoyable.

After a slow start, our committee has started nominating more titles:

  • The Black Tattoo by Sam Enthoven
  • Inside the Mind of Gideon Rayburn by Sarah Miller
  • Larklight (and its many subtitles) by Philip Reeve (also nominated by me … hence the Huzzah!)
  • Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer
  • Monkey Town by Ronald Kidd
  • …and Wintersmith

We are of course, listening to as much as we can: between the nine of us, at least one person has listened to 119 of the 167 titles on our current list! Whew!

Did you know that you can make a field nomination of an audiobook that you’ve listened to and liked? If you nominate a book, one of us has to listen and “officially” nominate it as well … but we’d love to hear from you! You’re also welcome to leave comments about our nominations so far — I think we’d all like to know what other YALSA listeners think!

Just make sure it was published this year or last:

It’s spring break week here in Oregon! Enjoy!