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Interview with a video wrangler: Jen Knoch, on keeping her city reading

Jen Knoch runs the Keeping it Real Book Club, and Keeps Toronto Reading (in conjunction with the Toronto Public Library’s April campaigns) by curating a series of one-minute video pitches by avid readers for their favourite books. We were interested to discover just how a library patron becomes partner in a literacy campaign, and to find out why Jen can’t get enough of these video book recommendations.

Jennifer Knoch

CB: You've written before about the great relationship you have with the Toronto Public Library. But how did you become their Keep Toronto Reading video wrangler?

JK: I think I just sort of just fell into it. Kismet perhaps? When I came across the Keep Toronto Reading campaign last year I thought it was wonderful, and totally in line with the mandate of my book club-cum-blog, which emphasizes offering passionate recommendations for books you love. I'd just come off doing one-minute video pitches for the CBC for Canada Reads, so I was feeling pretty comfortable with the medium (and with pressuring others into doing using it).

So I decided to try and get enough people to make video recommendations that I could release one a day for all of April. Not long after I declared my intentions, Ab from the TPL got in touch and said they'd like to feature the videos and help promote them. It was a new step in my TPL relationship: like someone I'd crushed on from afar suddenly wanted to date! This year you could say we're going steady: I got involved early in the process and we continue to work together and look for ways we could make the campaign better.

CB: What for you is the appeal of the video pitches over more traditional mediums such as the written review?

JK: Well they say the number one thing that sells books is still word of mouth. In bookstores that becomes "the hand sell" and in more informal environments it can just be a really passionate recommendation. I know that's what's convinced me to read a lot of books -- it's personal (and personable) and engaging. It's also doesn't demand a lot from you as a potential reader, which is a nice change from long form reviews (which don't get me wrong, are very valuable and I still read and write). But this adds a little variety, is incredibly accessible, and I think encourages people to get creative and express themselves in different ways. It's just such a delight when people really run with it (as the hilarious Evan Munday has both years), and those videos are often the most popular.

CB: What have a few of your favourite videos been?

JK: There were a few people this year who really went extra mile like Evan Munday, Matt Elliott, Brian Francis and Lilla Csorgo -- they all took such creative (and funny!) approaches to the video. But since this year was about books that transformed you, I was also partial to people like Robin Spano, Angie Abdou or Erin Creasey, who all had great stories for their thoughtful choices.

May 4, 2011
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