Tuesday, September 14, 2010

An interview with Terri of Book Speak


I had the pleasure of plying Terri from Book Speak with questions for today's interview swap portion of BBAW. Terri lives in Memphis, is a self-described hardcore reader, and a book blogger who recently celebrated her first anniversary. She's frugal and green, a homeschool mom and one of the founders behind Books And, a virtual touring company that promotes authors of color.

Our e-mail conversation:

Could you tell us a bit about yourself. About your blog.

I'm a mom, wife, student, vegetarian, and a bunch of other boring stuff. My book blog is the anchor of my website BrownGirl Speaks. I read and blog about works of literary fiction predominantly by authors of color.

You homeschool. Has this made it easier to turn your son into a reader? Were you a hardcore reader from an early age or did you have to develop the taste for books over time? Do you come from a family of readers or is reading something that set you apart?

My son is a reluctant reader. He reads very well once I can get him to do it. I hope that he eventually finds himself unable to function without books in his life like myself.

I, on the other hand, have always been a book fiend. Ironically, I don't come from a family of readers. When I was four I would read the signs at every business we'd pass whenever in the car so, my parents started buying books and taking me to the library and I've had a book in my hand ever since. It's just an innate passion for me.

Let's talk book selection. You read a lot of authors I've never even heard of. How do you find out about them? And, since you're frugal, how do you get your hands on them? Are you more a library user or a buyer of books? How have your tastes in books changed over the years?

I discover my book selections in a variety of ways. I get recommendations from Amazon and other bloggers/readers. I check Publishers Weekly's upcoming releases and sometimes the author or publisher will contact me for a review. Since I became a book blogger, I acquire books from publishers or authors for reviews and when I purchase them it's mainly from used book stores or getting them free on BookMooch. Occasionally I use the library, but I've found myself buying some of those books second hand as well.

My taste in books got a complete makeover in college. I went from solely reading English classics like everything by the Bronte sisters to solely reading Black authors to solely reading all authors of color. And my reading taste is still evolving. . .

Did you read other book blogs before you started or discover them afterwards?

Actually I did not. I thought there might be a few out there but was in for quite the surprise to find this whole subculture of book bloggers. I felt silly for not spending my first four years of blogging about books like I was constantly nudged to do. So, I discovered all of my fellow book bloggers after I started.

Do you enjoy participating in reading challenges?

I do enjoy reading challenges and decided to start one of my own on the fly this year. I'm already planning for what I'll do next year. I like giving myself a goal and focusing on a theme or genre, especially ones that make me expand.

You seem much more adept at social media than me. I managed to set up a Twitter account a year or so back and I've never even signed on. I don't remember the password. Am I missing out?

Social media has its place. I've got my Twitter on auto pilot most of the time because I have so much going on with being a homeschool mom. I think it can definitely help expand your audience and retain the one you have. It's good to check in sometimes on Twitter to do some real time chatting. It can be as time consuming as you'd like and this I know is a concern for those hesitant about getting into social media.

Are you pro-marketing and branding?

I am for marketing and branding but done lightly. I don't care for hardcore marketing. Just let it happen organically in its own time. Those pushy blogs/websites seem insincere and are not looking to build a following because they have something to say but because they want to build revenue.

Are there some favorites, or simply some books you wish you could convince/require everyone to read? How much influence do you have over what your friends read?

One book that I've found myself recently recommending over and over is Marlon James' The Book of Night Women. It's set on an 1800's Jamaican sugar cane plantation. He beautifully reveals the status of women both enslaved and seemingly free and their often unknown power. Some others I frequently push are Let the Lion Eat Straw by Ellease Southerland, Girl In Translation by Jean Kwok, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, and Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler.

I think my book recommendations carry quite a bit of weight with my friends. I've always been "the" reader in my circle and I've yet to recommend a dud.

Any controversial subjects out there that make you want to rant?

Yes, I'm turned off by e-readers and audio books. I've been called a book snob because of it. I get the convenience of them and that e-readers are space savers. However, I love the tactile experience of books. I need to feel and SMELL those pages.

Describe your dream library. How does reality compare to it?

My books are organized in some quirky system only I can understand and is an aversion to those thinking they'll just come into my sanctuary to rummage through and poach my books. There's a nice sized window for natural lighting and an oversized chair and ottoman covered in organic cotton or bamboo. I haven't nailed down a color scheme for my retreat.

My reality is not in the same galaxy with books stacked on two sets of bookshelves two rows deep, on the floor, and under tables with no rhyme or reason other than "have read" and "tbr". And forget about a comfortable, quiet spot to read.


  1. I've heard people called book snobs for lots of things before, but not for a distaste for technological gadgets!

  2. This seems like a fantastic blog. I loved your interview.

  3. I know longer remember the stance I was taking to elict such, but someone once called me a book purist. I'm sure that meant book snob.

  4. I think reading tastes evolve, rather than change. and, they can come full-circle, too! I enjoyed reading this interview.

  5. Ack! NO, not KNOW.

    And I told Terri in my interview that I'd like to be an editor.


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