Readers, you know that feeling you get when you've just finished a book, and you're dying to pepper the author with a million and one questions? You just have to know why they did what they did on page 176, and whether or not that scene on page 294 was inspired by real life events... and on and on and on. Well now, thanks to Gum Spring Public Library's Human Library-inspired program, you can find out! In addition to checking out a book, you can also check out the human who wrote it. No joke: Human books are officially a thing.
The Loudoun County, Virginia-based public library is taking a page out of Copenhagen, Denmark's book (pun intended) where The Human Library has been going strong since way back in 2000. The premise is this: You walk into a library and request to "check out" a local, volunteer author. Readers are then given 20 minutes to interview the "human book," asking him or her anything you've been dying to know since reading their work. The idea is to take reading off the page, and use the book as a jumping off point to forge a more personal relationship between reader and author. It's basically like an in-person Reddit AMA (and seriously, we all love those).
The Human Library has humble beginnings, as a one-time festival activity coordinated by Danish NGO Stop the Violence. It was originally founded to "focus on anti-violence, encourage dialogue and build relations." Since then, The Human Library has gone global, with it's first permanent installation popping up in Lismore, Australia, in 2006. Libraries in the U.S. began hosting Human Library-inspired events back in 2013, but Gum Spring Public Library is the first to offer "human books" as a regular feature.
Now, if you're anything like me, you're either hitting the road for an epic drive to Gum Spring Public Library, or booking a flight to Lismore. But here's a thought: Why not host a Human Library event of your own? Sure, the first step is to actually, you know, write the book (and that part's definitely on you). But beyond that, here are a few tips for becoming your own "human book" (or you know, "human short story" if you're pressed for time).
1. Be honest and forthcoming
... about all the juicy bits of your book, and your creative inspirations. Especially the one about that thing your ex did on page 72.
2. ...But don't give away everything.
You wrote a book for a reason, after all.
3. Offer readers something they won't find in your book
If you were going to write a sequel, what would the first scene be?
4. Put the book into perspective
Tell readers something surprising you discovered about yourself or your characters while writing your book and what you've learned since publication.
5. Finally, ask your readers a question back!
They were inspired enough to come talk to you, after all, and they're probably dying to share a story of their own.
Happy reading ...er, chatting!