Readers become writers for contest

Posted: Saturday, January 29, 2011
By Ben Beagle bbeagle@batavianews.com The Daily News Online

As you read “Mudbound,” this year’s selection in the “A Tale for Three Counties” community reading project, consider two questions.

One, how did it make you feel to have six different narrators tell the story?

The other, which character did you find the most likeable and why?

Your written response could win you a spot at the table for a lunchtime discussion with the book’s author, Hillary Jordan, when she visits the area in March to talk about a gripping story of two families enduring social and racial injustices in post-World War II Mississippi.

The questions are your entry into the annual reading project’s book review contest.

The contest, sponsored by The Daily News, began in 2004 with author Howard Frank Mosher. The lunch setting gives up to six winners a chance for a more intimate conversation with Tale’s featured author.

While continuing to be called a book review contest, the format was tweaked last year to give readers specific questions about the book to consider.

The change was “so that participants’ reviews would be more an opinion piece or emotional response to the book rather than a summary of the book’s plot,” explained Leslie DeLooze, the community services librarian at Richmond Memorial Library, Batavia, who has been instrumental in Tale’s ongoing success.

“It has worked very well, because it makes it easier for people who submit reviews to fucs on a particular idea and develop that,” DeLooze said.

Positive response to changes

And the number of entries hasn’t suffered. Last year saw a record number of entries for Garth Stein’s best-seller “The Art of Racing in the Rain.”

Joyce Thompson-Hovey of Pavilion has entered the contest each year, winning several time

“With the questions it’s more interesting. And it helps you zero in on the specific topics, rather than thinking about the entire book,” she said. “I think it makes it easier.”

Thompson-Hovey, who teaches fifth grade, and retired educator Linda Daviau of Batavia both said they first used the contest as a classroom lesson.

“I wanted to show my students that adults write also,” Daviau said. “I wanted them to see that writing was not something you leave behind when you leave school.”

Daviau retired from the Batavia City School District two years ago and continues to be a Tale contest writer.

“Maybe its the teacher coming out in me, but I do enjoy it,” said Daviau, who reads each Tale book at least twice — first for pleasure, then with her review entry in mind.

Entries due Feb. 18

Jordan’s acclaimed debut novel — it won the Bellweather Prize for Fiction in 2006, among other awards — is set in the post-World War II South. “Mudbound” tells the story of two families — one black, one white — on a Mississippi farm. Each chapter is told from the sometimes overlapping perspectives of one of the six narrators — three from each family.

Entries have started to come and will be accepted until Feb. 18. Up to six winners will be chosen to have lunch with Jordan on March 12. Some reviews or excerpts will be published on the Tale website and in print editions of The Daily News.

All entries must be submitted with an original entry form that was included in a special “Tale for Three Counties” section published Jan. 8. Entry forms are also included in a Tale advertisement in today’s editions of The Daily News. The entry form will be published several more times in the newspaper, including Feb. 5, 12 and 17.

With a 150-word limit, the contest isn’t looking for a review of the entire book. The limit — while admittedly challenging to writers — is designed to encourage readers to focus their thoughts on a particular aspect of the Tale title.

“That’s the hardest thing, paring it down,” Thompson-Hovey said. “I always want to say so much more.”

Many ways to be involved

The review contest is just one way to be involved with Tale. The project, organized by libraries in Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming counties, encourages readers to pick up the same book, discuss it and then meet the author in a series of visits each spring.

Book discussion begin Feb. 7, with programs at Yates Community Library, Lyndonville, and Haxton Memorial Library, Oakfield. Discussions continue through March 9.

Jordan will make a visit to each county from March 10 to 12. She is scheduled to makes two appearances in Batavia on March 10, speaking at 1 p.m. at Genesee Community College, and 7 p.m. at Richmond Memorial Library. On March 11, Jordan stops at Lee-Whedon Memorial Library, Medina. The program ends March 12 with a 2 p.m. program hosted by Perry Public Library at Perry Elementary/Middle School. Booksignings are planned at each stop.

In February, Raymond Cianfrini of Oakfield will present programs at both Richmond Memorial Library and Genesee Community College that explore the history of the Klu Klux Klan in Genesee County. The KKK and race relations figure prominently in “Mudbound.”

Tale is also encouraging discussions on the Tale blog at thedailynewsonline.com, and through the program’s Facebook page, where readers are encouraged to “Picture Youself with ‘Mudbound’ by submitting pictures of themselves, family or friends with a copy of “Mudbound.”

Several libraries have also hosted display contests in January. Each week a new display of books was put on and patrons were asked to guess the theme of each collection for a chance at a prize.

A full schedule of Tale discussions and events is available at the Tale website, www.taleforthreecounties.org. At the website, you may also read past review contest entries, including the winners.

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Courtesy of Batavia Newspapers Corporation

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