All aboard to Bookingham for another Juniper giveaway!

Friends and readers, I am delighted to announce that we have put our heads together, and the magnanimous Duke of Bookingham is currently hosting a Juniper-themed giveaway over on her tumblr!

bookingham giveaway 1

photo by The Duke of Bookingham

bookingham giveaway 2

photo by The Duke of Bookingham

You may notice there seems to be a set in these pictures. That’s because an advance copy, a finished hardback, and an audiobook of Juniper Lemon’s Happiness Index are all up for grabs as prizes!

You can enter her giveaway and read the full details here, or, if you do not have a tumblr account, there are alternative entry methods via Rafflecopter (see link below). Ends October 7th. Good luck!!

enter via Rafflecopter


#JuniperIRL Scavenger Hunt

Juniper IRL Bingo Card - web

Here’s a thing I don’t get to say every day: My first book came out on Tuesday!!

To celebrate the release of Juniper Lemon’s Happiness Index, today I’m kicking off a Juniper-themed scavenger hunt that anyone can join online, or, if you happen to be in the Portland area, in person!

The hunt list (above – prints at 8.5 x 11 in) features a combination of spot-this-items and activity prompts. Here’s how the game will work:

Online (open internationally): June 3 – June 11

Play from anywhere in the world by sharing a photo of any item from the list online using the hashtag #JuniperIRL. Each social share may count as an entry for raffle prizes including copies of the book, $20 USD worth of books from the Book Depository, and a Juniper-themed prize pack featuring bath bombs, sweets, and beyond! Winners will be randomly selected on June 12 and contacted via email or direct message.

Note: If sharing a #JuniperIRL photo on Twitter, you are entered for prizes automatically. If sharing on another social platform, please copy the link to your post and paste it in the share widget (click below to go to it):

Share Widget (Rafflecopter)

PORTLAND ONLY: Sunday, June 4th

From 2:00 – 4:00pm on Sunday, June 4, Julie will be celebrating at the Brewery Blocks Starbucks downtown (1039 NW Couch; at the corner of 11th and Couch, across from Powell’s bookstore).

Show her photos of any five items from the Juniper hunt list for a small prize, which may or may not involve ice cream (there is a Ben & Jerry’s three blocks away. It may). Or just come say hi, color a postcard, and get a book signed!

I’ve had a blast putting this all together — I hope you all enjoy it!

Alternative Reading Goals: Go Deeper

The Bones Clocks aes 2

an aesthetic I made for The Bone Clocks

Every year on Goodreads, over a million readers “pledge” how many books they intend to finish that year: thirty. Fifty-two. A hundred and fifty. Goals vary widely and so does the average degree of completion, but one thing doesn’t:

People are always striving to read more.

As a writer, I am thrilled to see this. As a participant, I wonder about the practicality and tradeoffs of the system: namely, defining “more” as a higher number of books. More books does not necessarily mean more pages; nor does a total include the books one didn’t finish, or other (non-book) commitments to reading. A number is not a true reflection of the reading one has completed.

Perhaps more importantly, as someone who rarely finishes a book in one sitting—someone who would rather read in increments and absorb—reading “more” books, after a certain point, can start to mean getting less out of them.

So what’s a reader to do? How does she set a higher bar for herself without lessening her book by book experience?

I have some thoughts on that.

First, if you’re going to set a number goal, be realistic. If you can comfortably read a book a week, keep at it. Two? Read on. If you struggle to finish a book a month or even five in a year, don’t “pledge” fifty. Be honest with yourself. Reading should be fun, so start with something comfortable (or a bit of a push) and adjust as necessary.

Second, consider the value—what it means to you, personally—of reading more deeply, having more fun with certain books. While deeper activities with one book won’t count towards a number goal, they can certainly enrich your reading experience—and may make you more eager to pick up the next!

Here are some ideas for deeper engagement and more fun with the books you love*:

  • Write down references and vocab you don’t know as you’re reading. Look them up.
  • Make an aesthetic (example above).
  • Draw (paint, etc.) original fan art!
  • Make a playlist based on the book, your favorite character or chapter, etc.
  • Re-read a book or series that you love. A teacher of mine used to say that you had to read something three times to get the full value of it: once for pure enjoyment, the second and third to notice things you missed and appreciate how the story comes together.
  • Commit to reading an entire trilogy/series in a year, or even just several books by the same author (bonus points for back to back). You’ll start to see patterns and notice more when it’s fresh in your head!
  • Collect favorite quotes and passages along the way. When you finish reading, post or do something artistic with them. (Then post that!)

*Side note: This list makes a decent reading challenge in itself!

Other ideas? Share below!



Spooktober Reading Bingo

In honor of October and open spooky season, I’ve put together a reading bingo for all things horror and Halloween. If you enjoy sinking your fangs into a good scary story, this card is for you!

Available in four designs (click image for full size, which should print as 8.5 x 11in):

Spooktober Bingo - v3 Spooktober Bingo - v4

Spooktober Bingo - v7 Spooktober Bingo - v2

Remember, your mark-off options don’t stop at books: short stories, poems, and even internet articles can count, too! Alternatively, swap out “Reading” for “Story” and you can use even more mediums: movies, video games, Halloween episodes, etc. Get creative, and most importantly: have fun!

6 Ways to Read More (and Make Time to Read)

Those who don’t read often say it’s because they can’t find the time. Those who do read usually just want more of it. Inspired by National Readathon Day and a few recent conversations, I aim to offer both categories some quick tips on getting a bigger book fix.

These are not original ideas, and in fact I have a sneaking suspicion I may just be repeating what I read in On Writing (a fabulous guide by Stephen King) years ago. But here goes:

1. Always carry a book with you. Take it out whenever you find yourself waiting: in line, on the train, to meet a friend. No wait is too short to read a little more.

2. Audiobooks, audiobooks, audiobooks—the fantastic medium that allows us to experience prose while actively doing other things: cooking. Cleaning. Exercise. Driving. Art. The possibilities are endless. With audiobooks you don’t really even have to make time—you just have to recognize the activities that allow you to multitask.

3. Read before bed. You’d be surprised what headway you can make before drifting off to slumberland. Warning: in the case of extremely good reading, may result in missed hours of sleep.

4. Turn off the TV. For those that watch even half an hour of something a day, here is a golden opportunity to pick up a book instead. You don’t have to give up your favorite shows or choose books forever; you just have to make the decision to swap for the evening/day/hour. How much and how often are up to you.

5. Make a conscious trade. Maybe TV and movies aren’t what you do in your downtime. What is? Can you give it up a couple times a week, or maybe a full week, or over the course of a month and read instead?

6. Set a bar. Concrete, achievable goals are galvanizing and effective. By committing to a standard (one chapter a day, X hours a week, Y books a month or a year) you will read at a steady rate and finish your book(s) in due course.

Other ideas? Leave ’em in the comments below!

2014 in Review: Statistics, Fave Books, Lessons Learned

It’s that time of year again! Here’s what my 2014 as a reader/writer looked like:


Reading/Writing Stats

# projects worked on: 4

projects abandoned: 1

projects shelved to come back to: 2

projects currently on worktable: 1


# books read: 54+

books purchased: 27? (Holy Schmoe.)

given as gifts: 7?


# readings attended: 5? (Lauren Oliver, David Sedaris, David Mitchell, BJ Novak, Gretchen Rubin)


Favorite Books Read This Year


  1. I got an agent. — plus all the work that led up to it.
  2. I wrote the entire first draft of a MG project (separate from the YA book I queried and signed with an agent).
  3. I read 54 books, + several beta reads and nonfiction.
  4. I finished the rough draft of an illustrated project – very rough, because writing is my strong suit and art is secondary. I’m not convinced I should count this one because I’ve flagged so much of it for redoing it makes my head spin, and right now that just isn’t a high priority. But I would like to come back to it.

Lessons Learned

  1. It’s okay to abandon/retire a project. It’s important to finish things you start, but it’s also important to recognize when something isn’t working, won’t work, or when you’ve lost enthusiasm and your efforts would be better spent elsewhere.
  2. It’s okay to shelve a project indefinitely. I had a few ideas this year I was super jazzed about, only to start seeing fundamental problems with them in early development (e.g., reminded me too much of another book, or wanted to be a trilogy when what I want to write right now is standalone). So I put those projects, along with all of my notes and planning for them, carefully aside in folders that can be easily filed back to when the time is right.
  3. Beta readers are absolute gold. In theory I knew this already, but in practice I appreciated it even more. Love your readers: They will help you find the weak spots.
  4. Is it good? An obvious question, but when evaluating my own work, I’ve found it to be the ultimate measuring stick. Time may be the best aide for seeing a manuscript objectively, but asking yourself whether passages move/compel you is a close second.
  5. Is it necessary? The other essential question that’s helped me through my many revisions this year. This one is great 1) for reducing your word count and 2) consequently tightening your story, which will result in a swifter, stronger read.


How was your 2014 in books? Any pieces I’m missing?

Ye Olde Reading Liste

– very late that night –

(Panting) OK. OK. I think I finally got it. I’ll still have to update it manually, but I managed to get pretty dang close to the shiny Goodreads montage without the help of widgets. Check out my new Reading List page here!


– 1.5 hours later –

So I thought I could just add a cheeky Goodreads widget and have this beautiful, automatically updating montage of books read and books to read on my Reading List page, but ahahahaha, oh-hoho I was wrong. WordPress does not support the necessary javascript, and even with the simplest widget Goodreads offers, WordPress displays it wrong.

SO my friends, it appears I’ll be getting creative. Stay tuned.


As my TBR list sprawls wildly out of control– hard to read, nearing 200 items, and hopelessly behind on both additions and books I’ve actually finished– I have decided to move from a written list to a system that will be easier to process and less work to maintain.

But before I do, I thought I would post the old list here as a sort of memento of times past, and also a celebration of the progress I’ve made in my efforts to read more since starting this blog. As many items as there are remaining, there are quite a few crossed off, too. And who doesn’t enjoy the satisfaction of items crossed off a list?

While living in Japan, where I had very slim access to books in English, I started a reading list. Containing novels, nonfiction, plays, speeches, classics, books for teens, children, and adults, the list quickly ran wild. It continues to grow, taking over cities, genres, and age groups and plotting world domination faster than I can pare it down. Keep an eye out for additions– if we aren’t careful, they just might block out the sun.

Julie’s Assorted To-Read List, in no particular order:

  1. The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd (9/4/2013)
  2. Finnegans Wake by James Joyce
  3. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (5/27/2012)
  4. Food Rules by Michael Pollan (7/15/2013)
  5. And The Pursuit of Happiness by Maira Kalman
  6. The Illiad by Homer (1/22/2012)
  7. The Odyssey by Homer (3/14/2014)
  8. The Aeneid by Virgil
  9. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky (1/22/2014)
  10. Infero by Dante Alighieri
  11. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger (9/27/2011)
  12. Paradise Lost by John Milton (11/18/2011)
  13. How to Be an Explorer of the World by Keri Smith
  14. Never Let You Go by Kazuo Ishiguro (8/4/2011)
  15. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini (4/29/2012)
  16. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Márquez
  17. Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Márquez (9/17/2013)
  18. Life of Pi by Yann Martel (4/2011)
  19. The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie
  20. Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell (3/21/2013)
  21. Public Enemies by Bernard Henri Levi
  22. Greek & Roman Myths
  23. Oh, The Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss
  24. Dubliners by James Joyce (11/3/2011)
  25. Ulyssess by James Joyce
  26. The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde (1/12/2014)
  27. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand (9/14/2011)
  28. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1/14/2013)
  29. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath (10/10/2013)
  30. The Prince by Machiavelli (1/10/2014)
  31. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  32. House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende
  33. Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami (2/11/2012)
  34. American Gods by Neil Gaiman (6/30/2013)
  35. A Strategy of Peace (commencement speech) by JFK (1/20/2014)
  36. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (5/28/2013)
  37. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
  38. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery (10/6/2011)
  39. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (10/12/2012)
  40. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (9/10/2012)
  41. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens (5/22/2013)
  42. Bleak House by Charles Dickens
  43. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (3/24/2012)
  44. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (12/3/2011)
  45. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer (1/6/2013)
  46. The Tao Te Ching by Lao-tzu
  47. Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel (12/11/2011)
  48. Ogilvy on Advertising by David Ogilvy (2/22/2012)
  49. The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker
  50. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut (6/7/2012)
  51. Imagine by Jonah Lehrer (2/14/2014)
  52. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
  53. Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
  54. A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare
  55. The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka (9/25/2013)
  56. A la recherche du temps perdu by Marcel Proust
  57. The Fate of the Species by Fred Guterl* (research for my WIP!) (1/20/2013)
  58. Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (5/25/2014)
  59. Bel Ami by Guy de Maupassaunt
  60. On Writing by Stephen King (9/16/2012)
  61. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (2/10/2014)
  62. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  63. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
  64. John Dies at the End by David Wong (11/1/2013)
  65. The Unconsoled by Kazuo Ishiguro
  66. The Cider House Rules by John Irving (3/3/2013)
  67. Martin Eden by Jack London
  68. Men Without Women by Ernest Hemingway
  69. Germinal by Émile Zola
  70. Jumper by Steven Gould (4/7/2013)
  71. Pereira Maintains by Antonio Tabucchi
  72. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (10/2/2013)
  73. Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift
  74. Legend by Marie Lu (2/16/2014)
  75. The Beach by Alex Garland
  76. Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving
  77. Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
  78. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman (7/18/2013)
  79. The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell
  80. The Giver by Lois Lowry (3/3/2014)
  81. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle (3/18/2014)
  82. Tenth of December by George Sanders (7/4/2013)
  83. Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke (8/23/2013)
  84. 11/22/63 by Stephen King (8/8/2013)
  85. Logan’s Run by William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson (8/22/2013)
  86. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
  87. No One Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda July
  88. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke
  89. Les Misérables by Victor Hugo
  90. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas (10/15/2014)
  91. Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
  92. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
  93. The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery (1/31/2014)
  94. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (11/12/2013)
  95. I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore (1/4/2014)
  96. If On A Winter’s Night A Traveler by Italo Calvino (11/27/2013)
  97. Vicious by V.E. Schwab (12/6/2013)
  98. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess (3/1/2014)
  99. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (11/13/2014)
  100. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (12/23/2013)
  101. Stardust by Neil Gaiman
  102. Coraline by Neil Gaiman (5/25/2014)
  103. Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
  104. Astor Place Vintage by Stephanie Lehmann (12/16/2013)
  105. Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis
  106. Chocolat by Joanne Harris
  107. On the Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta (7/26/2014)
  108. Looking for Alaska by John Green (9/6/2014)
  109. Divergent by Veronica Roth (2/24/2014)
  110. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
  111. The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin (1/21/2014)
  112. Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
  113. Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
  114. Black Swan Green by David Mitchell
  115. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain
  116. Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
  117. Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer
  118. Prodigy by Marie Lu (#2 in the Legend series)
  119. Insurgent by Veronica Roth (#2 in the Divergent series)
  120. The World According to Garp by John Irving
  121. The Cavendish Home for Girls and Boys by Claire Legrand (3/21/2014)
  122. Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes by Jonathan Auxier (4/3/2014)
  123. The Theory of Everything by Kari Luna
  124. The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly (3/28/2014)
  125. Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare (4/14/2014)
  126. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott (7/28/2014)
  127. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
  128. The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
  129. Wool by Hugh Howey (4/25/2014)
  130. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher (5/6/2014)
  131. After by Kristin Harmel (5/1/2014)
  132. 34 Pieces of You by Carmen Rodrigues (5/2/2014)
  133. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
  134. If I Stay by Gayle Forman (9/9/2014)
  135. The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
  136. Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta
  137. Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver (5/15/2014)
  138. The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
  139. Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta
  140. Liesl & Po by Lauren Oliver (5/31/2014)
  141. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
  142. Doctor Sleep by Stephen King (6/8/2014)
  143. The Maze Runner by James Dashner
  144. Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman (6/14/2014)
  145. Summer and Bird by Katherine Catmull (6/26/2014)
  146. Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu (7/7/2014)
  147. The Real Boy by Anne Ursu
  148. Nightingale’s Nest by Nikki Loftin
  149. The Shining by Stephen King
  150. The Road by Cormac McCarthy
  151. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart (11/28/2014)
  152. The Girl with All the Gifts by M. R. Carey
  153. The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater (10/12/2014)
  154. Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
  155. Landline by Rainbow Rowell (12/8/2014)
  156. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
  157. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (8/13/2014)
  158. I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You by Courtney Maum
  159. Paris in Love by Eloisa James
  160. Delirium by Lauren Oliver (8/31/2014)
  161. 17 First Kisses by Rachael Allen (9/17/2014)
  162. The Graham Cracker Plot by Shelley Dougas (10/19/2014)
  163. The Secret Files of Fairday Morrow by Jessica Haight and Stephanie Robinson
  164. Save the Cat! by Blake Snyder (8/21/2014)
  165. Paper Towns by John Green
  166. Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira
  167. Last Train to Babylon by Charlee Fam
  168. Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver
  169. Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
  170. When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead (10/23/2014)
  171. Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool
  172. The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
  173. Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume

Supplemental Reading: Biomimicry

One thing I love about being an author is that the work encourages you to seek out interesting things, broaden your world, follow questions down the rabbit hole and BE FASCINATED. It’s kind of a free pass to go where the energy takes you because passion feeds passion, and if something you’re experiencing or learning about can funnel into your writing in any way, it is valuable as well as fascinating.

So, when a book outside my regular fiction addiction captures my interest, I give it a look-see. Recently my attention was won by a book on biomimicry, which I was not formerly acquainted with, and seeing the word and wondering what it meant I picked the book up and started reading.


Because much of what I learned elicited physical responses from me (see: “WHAT?” “Whooooa…” “Ugh!” etc.), I decided that some of this just had to be shared, even if you, my dear reader, conclude I am an easily-excited nerd. Which I would not deny.

First: Biomimicry is just what it sounds like: design that mimics biological entities and processes.

Now try some of these examples on for size.

1. Past Olympic swimsuits have been modeled after sharkskin, whose grooved overlapping scales (dermal denticles: “little skin teeth”) make water pass more quickly. Speedo says 28 of 33 gold medals won in the 2000 Sydney Olympics were won by swimmers wearing their sharkskin-inspired suits. According to this source, dermal denticle swimsuits are now banned in major competitions.

Other athletic fabric has been inspired by pine cones. Pine cones of all things! Pine cones respond to humidity, opening to release when there is moisture inside and closing when it is out. In fabric, this releases an athlete’s sweat while also keeping them dry from outer elements.


2. There’s a technology in the works for an airplane “skin” that repairs itself the way human skin does, similar to clotting blood and the formation of a scab/new skin underneath (the latter highlighting the damage for technicians to more fully address).

“If the technique pans out, then aircraft, wind turbines and perhaps even spaceships of the future may boast embedded circulatory systems with an epoxy resin that can bleed into holes or cracks and then fluoresce under ultraviolet light to mark the damage like a bruise during follow-up inspections.” —NBC

3. The book I read discussed the imitation of gecko spatulae for adhesive used to attach skin grafts, but more recent studies appear to be looking to flesh-grabbing worms and beetle feet for design.

Finally, these little factoids aren’t quite biomimicry, but I encountered them in the same book:

1. Nacre— the iridescent lining of an abalone shell– has a brick-and-mortar style structure that can withstand being run over by a truck. More here.

2. There exists a flower called the CORPSE LILY, named for its odor of rotting flesh. The smell attracts the insects that pollinate it. *Repulsed and grotesquely fascinated* Actually, there’s more than one flower like this:

  • There’s the stinking corpse lily, rafflesia arnoldii, which is also the largest single-bloom flower in the world:
  • And then there’s the corpse flower, amophophallus titanium, which looks more like a calla lily, but is also ungodly large and classified as a carrion flower for its stench of death:

Are you not in awe (if slightly grossed out)?



What’s in a reading? Some observations as attendee, as author

A former professor once said that she liked to think of readings as gifts: something that one gives one’s audience. That listeners can enjoy and take meaning, amusement, solace from. Or anything, really; it’s the author’s gift to give. What it does is, by and large, up to them.

I am fortunate to live in a city never wanting for literary events. This year, especially as it was one of my writing resolutions to attend more readings, I have had the chance not only to experience these events, but to observe just what sort of “gifts” their authors are giving.

Here are some observations I’ve made– both as an attendee, and as an author taking notes for the hopeful Someday she might be on the other side of the podium. First,

As a listener:

1. Most readings consist of the same parts: introduction/stand up (the author introduces him/herself and drops a few well-chosen lines to get listeners laughing and engaged); the actual reading of material from the book the author is there to promote; open Q&A with the audience; the signing of books.

2. Every author reads differently. Some authors read a great deal. Some don’t. Some read from books other than what they are there to promote, or in addition to it, and some read what they’re working on now or just wrote that morning.

3. Distraction happens. People sneeze. Babies cry. Small children, and occasionally long lines of teenagers thread through the audience or before the podium at THE MOST inconvenient occasions. A speaker can either read on, or, as David Mitchell did, take it in stride: acknowledge a running child with, “Hello, little person!” a throng of teens with “Hi guys!” and a crying infant with “It’s my reading, and he can cry if he wants to.” For me, this last approach really harkens back to the gift-giving aspect: rather than shaming these people or willfully ignoring them (or indeed competing with them for the audience’s attention), one is reaching out to the source(s) of distraction in a respectful, playful, and even inviting manner. Thus rather than a nuisance, it becomes a bit of fun for the audience, and parents/sneezers/wanders-through are more likely to feel gratitude than embarrassment. Might even gain some new listeners.

As an author:

1. There is more than one way to engage with an audience. What a speaker can do beyond speaking is perhaps limited by context, but there’s a certain amount of room for creativity here. Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project and Happier at Home, at one point discussed the small indulgence of appreciating smell, and as a sort of enhancing prop passed around vials of some of her favorite handmade scents.

As someone with classroom experience, I could see engagements taken in other directions, too: shows of hands. Short games. Trivia with candy/literary/other prizes. As long as it’s relevant.

2. What a presenter can give is not limited to a great performance. I’m thinking specifically of David Sedaris here, who makes a point of giving his listeners (particularly teens, who it is rarer to see at readings) some kind of physical token to take home. He gives small things, random things: tiny plastic toys, postcards,  bracelets, hotel shampoos, packets of honey mustard, things from his pockets, sometimes things former listeners have gifted him (like a small box of chocolates, which he couldn’t eat).

Obviously this is one to exercise good judgment with, but for Mr. Sedaris’s standard genre (humorous creative nonfiction) it’s both amusing and appropriate. And what an unusual, lasting impression it makes!

3. If you’re trying to generate interest in something other than your book, a reading may be a good place to do it. I have seen newsletter signups passed around (Rubin) and authors promoting another author’s book alongside their own (Sedaris). Both alluded to these extras only briefly, and did so in a non-intrusive way.

Again, though, it’s all about relevance. Most readings are not places for promoting political agendas, etc.

4. If you don’t want to take pictures with people, you don’t have to. As a presenting author, you can work with the bookstore/library/school etc. staff to establish some ground rules beforehand. While some speakers are naturally photogenic and happy to pose with those getting their books signed, others would prefer not to pose, and some would rather not take pictures at all. David Sedaris mentions a sly trick in Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls: he asks the bookstores to put out a large sign forbidding photography, and makes it sound like it’s their policy that photos not be taken.

5. Engagement doesn’t have to end at the event. Many authors are on social media, and some take to the Tweets (/tumbls, etc.) after a reading to continue engaging with people who came to see them.

BJ Novak favorited my Tweet. I felt Twitter famous.