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Has reading lost its luster? Thankfully NO

A new Pew research study found that nearly three-quarters (73%) of the American public read books today, and this number hasn’t changed significantly in the last five years, though how they read is evolving. (E-device usage has climbed from 17% to 28% from 2011 to 2016.) All of that reading makes an author very happy—until she compares those figures to the 1970s, when only 8% of the American public answering a Gallup poll indicated they’d not read at least one book in the last year. That means up to 92% of us were reading.

Ah well, with so much information and distraction thrown at the public every day from multiple sources, the numbers shouldn’t surprise me. Those of us who put words on a page and hope someone sees and understands them will take what we can get. And some of the other stats from the 2016 Pew study are promising.

For example, the percentage of us who read simply for pleasure (as opposed to work, study or to keep up with current events) has remained steady over the last five years at about 80% of readers. Since mom and I write to entertain others, I’m pleased with that statistic. And nearly 35% of the Pew study respondents said they pursue this passion nearly every day.

I also found the figures on print vs. electronics heartening: people still like to hold a printed book in their hands and that number seems to be holding its own: The same number of people who read a print book in 2012 (65%) read in this format in 2016. What’s more, nearly four in ten (38%) said they read print books exclusively while just 6% read only through digital device.

E-book reading appears to have stabilized at 28% of readers where it’s been since 2014, though how that reading is getting done is changing: many more people are reading on computer tablets and cell phones while e-readers have stayed about the same. Interestingly, young people today are no more likely to read by digital device than their counterparts: 6% of 18- to 29-year-olds read books electronically only compared to 7% of 30- to 49-year-olds and 5% of those over 50.

Americans today read an average of about a book a month, and that number also hasn’t changed in the last five years. College graduates read more books (a median of about 7 per month); those who have not graduated from college are much more likely to use cell phones. The share of people who read to do research on a specific topic appears to be growing: 84% of Americans said they read a book for that reason, and 29% said they do so every day.

But all of these numbers are just numbers. Mom and I are much more heartened by what we discover at every event we attend and that is: readers are passionate about their past-time. Although we occasionally get the person who has no time or desire to look at a book, we get many more that are in awe that we’ve managed to produce five books in a few years. By far the most common comments are: “Of course I’m a reader” and “I always wanted to write a book.”

Join us next week (Sept. 15; 4 to 7, Dumfries Applebee’s) as we celebrate that fifth book: Treasured Fate. We know you’ll find others that share your love of reading.

Genilee Swope ParenteTreasured_Fate_Cover

 
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Posted by on September 6, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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Life of the not-so-rich, pretty poor

wheel

Dreamstime

My household is full of excitement this week as both my husband and I are perched on the edge of fame. Okay, okay, maybe not fame. But we’re both floating above our usual clouds of obscurity just a tad.

My husband is set to go this morning to a second round of tryouts for the Great Mobile Wheel of Fortune. I know that “Great” is not really part of the name of the big bus that travels around the country overseeing hordes of excited fans trying to get on the most-popular-game-show-ever, but it should be. This show has been on the air for 35 years, the longest-running syndicated television competition ever, and there’s a good reason. Even my 88-year-old Daddy, who is suffering from Alzheimer’s, still shouts out answers occasionally—and he’s usually right. He can’t remember what he did five minutes ago, but he loves this game. It’s an American icon, the nighttime ritual of millions—one half hour of excitement that ties a hugely broad diversity of people together, even if that tying occurs in front of the boob tube.  And it isn’t exactly easy to get on. This is my dear hubby’s third time of trying to get past that initial two-day mass tryout. He’s proud and excited to be called back for a second round, and if you want to be part of this household’s brush with fame, you’ll get on his facebook page and wish him luck. (that’s Raymond Parente, Dumfries, VA, folks!)

Then there’s me, and my amazing 86-year-old mom of course. We are appearing three times the last week in February on Conversations with Rich, a local (Channel 10, Fairfax [VA] Public Access Station). Rich is well known in the Washington, D.C. area for hosting different types of talks shows, including two of his most popular, which feature restaurants and cooking. Mom and I won’t be talking about cooking (I’m hearing great sighs of relief out there!); we’re talking about our successful two books—Twist of Fate and Wretched Fate. But we have already spent two luncheons discussing at length what colors we might wear that would de-emphasize the reason we’re on in the first place: we’re old (Amazing, yes, but old).

Which brings me to point three of this blog: true “fame,” or at least glory. Mom and I had a second visit at the Emeritus assisted living community in Manassas this week. The residents there read our first book, Twist of Fate, during the month of January, and agreed to give us their comments, then purchase Wretched Fate if they liked the first book. By the end of 45 minutes of discussion, mom and I had to try to stuff our inflated heads back into hats. Lynn Hess, the dynamic life enrichment director of this facility, said she feared she’d be mobbed if she made residents stick with the original plan: to read (then discuss) only a certain number of pages per week during the month. There is no greater compliment to a writer than “I couldn’t put it down.” Lynn truly has a great bunch of intelligent readers in that community and their comments were invaluable, full of insight, and right on the mark. Needless to say, we’ll be returning to hear about Wretched at the end of February. To mom and I, who know we’re probably too advanced in years to build up an audience that can provide the riches, their enthusiasm was our reward for the hard work that goes into our books.

We’ll have to rely on my handsome, charming and talented husband, to win the big money prize!

Genilee Swope Parente

 
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Posted by on February 5, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Taking a bow

Mom and I had another book signing this week, and as with most of these events, it was nothing like the previous ones. However, we walked away with smiles on our face, and it was not because of the books we sold. Here’s why:

In July, we spoke at two senior communities in Fredericksburg – The Crossings and the Chancellor–both great meetings because the residents were truly interested in how two older women (a mother/daughter team no less!) finally got around to fulfilling a dream. We didn’t sell many books at those meetings and didn’t expect to—we were there to pump ourselves up and remember how great being an author can be.

This week, however, we tried our first book store event. We’ve been hesitant to jump into that circuit because the store has to take a cut so we’re lucky to break even. I think we also both visualized a situation similar to the library book signings we’ve done: sitting at a table with just a sign and a smile and watching people go by without looking our way. People at the library do not expect or want to see someone trying to sell them a product—even if it’s a book!

Last Saturday, we set up a table at 2nd and Charles, a huge used book (as well as used movies, instruments, albums) store, put on those smiles and put up the sign. But instead of being ignored, people stopped; people talked; some people bought—shoppers of all ages and types kept pouring through that front door and walking by the table.2nd and charles

It was delightful so many people paused to meet the authors and exclaim over our fortune and fortitude in getting our books into print. The staff at 2nd and Charles bent over backwards to make us feel comfortable and appreciated. And we sold more books than we’ve sold at any recent event.

However, what made us smile as we packed our materials away was something entirely different: we realized that the constant stream of traffic meant there are many many readers out there. Despite the 3D Imax glitter of movies, the 100-plus channels most people have on their televisions, the graphic fantasy worlds of computer and Xbox games, those who shop at 2nd and Charles choose to hold a book in their hands and let their minds do the work. Of course it made us smile: they are our audience and this is our curtain call.

Genilee Swope Parente

 
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Posted by on August 26, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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The excitement of being picked

Sometimes the little thrills balance out even the biggest challenges, which in writing include long hours of creation following by painful periods of waiting for your books to come out.

Mom and I recently had the pleasure of showing our book at a community fair at Potomac Woods apartments, Woodbridge, VA. We were returning to the Woods after a successful book signing, and like the first event, residents were enthusiastic about buying our book.

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Sally Okuly (middle) and the authors

But the nicest surprise came not from sales, but from two other factors: first, there were a number of residents who stopped by to comment on the book because they’d already read it. But the second surprise was even better: Mom and I donated a copy as a door prize drawing. Those fair participants whose names were drawn had a table full of goodies to choose from as prizes. When it came time for lucky Sally Okuly to pick, she walked up to the table and, ignoring the baskets of bath goodies, bags of cosmetics, warm fuzzy blankets, terrific gift certificates and other goods from the generous fair vendors, picked up Twist of Fate, a big smile on her face. She had already stopped by our display table with infectious enthusiasm about what we’d accomplished by writing a mystery/romance. But to have her select our book as her prize was an honor we won’t soon forget.

It shows us we’ve reached one of our main goals—to pass along to people who are readers the pleasure that mom and I (avid readers ourselves) get out of jumping into a good plot. Enough people have told us how much they enjoyed losing themselves for a few hours in Twist of Fate that we know we’ve attained that goal.

good smiling

Thursday Thrillers

Which brings me to this week’s event. Mom and I were featured speakers at the Potomac Community Library’s Thursday Thriller’s club. And let us just say: the thrill was all ours. There were about 20 avid mystery readers in attendance, and they provided us fresh perspective on our work. Nothing is more rewarding to the writer than to hear that your readers 1) did not figure out who the villain was, and 2) loved your characters, which made it a pleasure to read.

We’ll write more about that experience in our next blog, but to my writing friends reading this week, let me leave you with advice: get book clubs to read your material.  What they have to say around a table can be an eye-opening experience. And being invited to tell an audience how you became a writer is a heady experience.

Our thanks to Potomac Woods management, who put on a terrific event for their residents, and to Barbara and the members of Thursday Thrillers.

 
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Posted by on May 18, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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The Wonderful World of Readers

I’m at a business convention in Orlando, Florida this week, which is not my favorite place to be. I have nothing against the city: it’s family paradise. But many visits to Disney’s kingdoms and Universal’s fantasies have left this mom with a deep desire to visit almost any city but Orlando when I’m wearing my professional hat.

Still, this trip, like the smaller trips to the local grocery, post office, neighborhood restaurant, almost anywhere back home, have brought the wonder of publishing into clearer focus. I tried not to use job time to market Twist of Fate. To do so would be unprofessional in my view—I’m at this convention to learn how to write about a housing-related product that helps to pay my bills. However, although this is a fairly new client (I’ve been doing their magazine one year), I have already developed friendships with some of the people in this industry, and when they ask me what’s new in my world, I tell them.

And I’ve gotten that same wondrous look. “You’ve published a BOOK? When did you find time? What’s it about? How can I get a copy?”
One woman in particular (yes, it’s you, Mary) was very supportive and proud of what I’ve done. I could see that she wasn’t lying when she told me it was an inspiring accomplishment. It’s people like Mary that make the hours and hours of rewrites, the months of waiting for something to happen once the book has left your hands, the countless stories from authors who have never made a dime—insignificant.

I should understand this – how many times have I told my talented musician brother Mark that, while he is not making a living by playing his many instruments – he has truly accomplished something in his life by pursuing what he loves. There are so many people out there that don’t have that opportunity or that never even discover what passions lie within.

To those of you who are authors like mom and I, this picture, which was taken at our most recent book signing (thanks to Potomac Place in Woodbridge!), is why we do this.
The woman purchasing our book is a reader, and readers are what drive authors. She was very excited to meet a creator of the words that entertain her—that take her mind to places of adventure. To her, that’s art. And that makes it all worthwhile.book signing for january 2013

Genilee Swope Parente

 
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Posted by on January 31, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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