Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Saturday, May 30, 2015

1300 for KIRKUS

A couple of minutes ago I filed book review #1300 for Kirkus Reviews (link to their website). I think I've written about my relationship with them before--but, hey, I'm old: I don't remember. (And I'm too lazy to look it up--where, I'm pretty sure, I'll find another version of what I'm about to write right now.)

Kirkus, published on the 1st and the 15th of each month, reviews scores of books each month--fiction, nonfiction, poetry, thrillers, children's books, etc. I do only nonfiction for them--and I enjoy that. I learn something from every title I get (the good, the bad, the ugly), though at my age remembering what I've read is ... an issue. The reviews follow a conventional format: brief introductory sentence, descriptive and analytical body (the longest part), a sharp closing/summary sentence at the end--about 310 words/review. The audience? Libraries, bookstores, collectors, assorted book freakies (like me).

Kirkus has a robust online presence now--and you can subscribe there and see what will be coming out in the next few months. Kirkus, you see, is a pre-publication review--several months in advance. Most other outlets (newspapers, magazines, other media) wait until the actual release date. So Kirkus offers the first good news/bad news for publishers and writers.

So ... how did I hook up with them?

When I retired from public school teaching in January 1997, I was casting about for some useful things to do. A local librarian--Ron Antonucci--was (at the time) editing a small publication called Ohio Writer (don't know its current status) and asked me if I'd like to review a book for them. Sure. And so I did--Terry Pluto's When All the World Was Browns Town--in the fall of 1997 (Ohio Writer is a quarterly).

I liked doing reviews, and I did a couple of more for OW, and then Ron, who was reviewing for Kirkus at the time, asked me if I'd be interested in doing that. Oh yes.

Ron contacted Kirkus, who contacted me, sent me a book, and my first review for them appeared in the March 1, 1999, issue. I've had at least one review in every ensuing issue. (We are not allowed to identify the books we've reviewed; reviewers' names are listed in the publication, but all the reviews are anonymous--a strategy designed to encourage candor.)

Soon, I was reviewing a lot for them, and I began the routine I follow to this day: Read (and take notes on) 100 pages of my Kirkus book, first thing in the morning. Soon, I was doing as many as ten books a month.

Then in 2001 I decided to return to teach for a year or so (turned out to be ten years) at nearby Western Reserve Academy. During the school year, I cut back to one book per week, And I set up another routine: divide the book into 100-page segments, time my reading so that I would read the last segment on Saturday morning, write/file the review on Saturday (while everything was fresh).

So ... if it was a 400-page book, for example, I would start it on Wednesday.

During the summers, I would return to reading seven days a week--which, as I said, could mean ten books or so/month.

When I retired from WRA in the spring of 2011, I went back to my every-day routine. And I mean every day. Christmas, my birthday, whatever. (I read my quota even when recovering from prostate cancer surgery in June 2005.) If I missed a day (rare), I would make it up the next day.

But then a couple of years ago I started a quarterly regimen of Lupron injections (to retard my prostate cancer), my energy sagged, and I began doing only one/week again for Kirkus.

So ... today was another milepost on this reviewing journey. Next time, I'll tell some "reviewer's stories." Without, of course, compromising my Secret Identity--the only thing I share with Clark Kent.

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