Thursday, March 19, 2009

Melissa Rabey: Printz Interview

As mentioned earlier, Melissa Rabey, who contributes to Tea Cozy and Pop Goes the Library and the YALSA blog, as well as has her own blog, Librarian by Day, is running for the 2011 Printz. Melissa is a teen librarian at the C. Burr Artz branch of the Frederick Co. (MD) Public Library and will be sharing her expertise in historical fiction to the YALSA Genre Galaxy preconference in Chicago this June. And, she has YALSA experience on several committees, including Popular Paperbacks and Organization & Bylaws.

Tea Cozy: Tell us something about yourself.

Melissa Rabey: In some ways, I think I'm more interesting because of the things I can't do. I'm unable to snap my fingers, and I can hardly whistle. To hear me sing is to wish for me to stop--quickly.

Yet I think this lack of ability has actually helped me. I spend a lot of time contemplating ideas and talking them over with others, so I don't make snap judgments.

I'm determined to help other people get a chance to sing their own song--just like the Mama Cass song says.

And although I can't whistle while I work, I do try to stay positive and proactive, and not just at work.

Tea Cozy: Name one YA title, published pre-1998, that would have made an excellent Printz Award winner.

Melissa Rabey: I know that there's lots of people who would support either Rats Saw Godby Rob Thomas or Weetzie Batby Francesca Lia Block as the best answer to this question. And both of those books are fantastic examples of the quality of young adult literature.

But there's another book, one which has stuck with me ever since I read it: Eva by Peter Dickinson. I won't spoil it for anyone who hasn't read it, but the plot twist in this novel still gives me the willies, five years after I read it. In addition, the language and characterization in this novel are rich and compelling; without this, an interesting idea would fall flat.

I think the best books have two aspects: what they're saying and how they're saying it. I feel Eva succeeds on both counts, and therefore would have been my pick for a Printz Award, if this award had existed in 1989.

Tea Cozy: What has prepared you to read for the Printz?

Melissa Rabey: Over the last nine months, I've been consciously preparing for the Printz Committee. I started a blog to review teen literature and have started posting at Liz Burns' Tea Cozy blog. At my blog, I evaluated the Morris Award shortlist as a way to practice my analytical skills. I served on the Maryland Author Award committee, reviewing the works of young adult authors with Maryland ties in order to select a winner. In this period, I've strived to read more books in general, and to read these books in a more critical manner.

Yet I've also been preparing for the Printz committee ever since I became a teen librarian. I've always sought to be aware of the important and/or popular books published for teens, and to read as many as I could. Through my service on Popular Paperbacks, I learned how to manage a reading workload and discuss books with my colleagues.

I feel that this mix of conscious and unconscious planning has me as ready as possible for the Printz committee. I don't know if anyone is really prepared for the amount of work that's involved in the Printz committee, but I think I can do a good job. I hope you believe that, too.

Tea Cozy: What's your area of pop culture expertise?

Melissa Rabey: I seem to be an expert at nitpicking historical inaccuracies in movies and TV shows. I understand why history gets changed to create or enhance drama--or at least, what's seen as drama. I feel that if you can't see the tragedy, the humor, the entertainment in historical fact, you've got an unusual definition of drama. It's for this reason I haven't watched any of The Tudors : it's a marvelous time period, full of sex and fights and political wranglings, yet all that isn't interesting enough on its own, apparently. But if, in the end, a show like the Tudors gets people more interested in history, then I can't really complain all that much.

Tea Cozy: I guess I should confess now that I've never read Eva. Oh, well, I better start reading! Thanks, Melissa!

As a reminder to all YALSA members:

Here's the official YALSA slate

And video interviews with the candidates, including Melissa

The Election category on the blog with all Election information

Cross-posted at Pop Goes the Library

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

1 comment:

Maggie Stiefvater said...

Good luck, Melissa!

I was talking to a librarian who read for another ALA list and she said that the only bad part about reading 300+ books in a year was "when you got behind." Eek!