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Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway in Kenya, 1953. Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons

For Whom the Blog Tolls

New JoCoHistory Blog Entry

Ernest Hemingway’s Kansas City Connections

Ernest Hemingway, known for such literary classics as The Old Man and the Sea, The Sun Also Rises, and A Farewell to Arms, stood out as one of the 20th century’s most prolific authors. He famously spent much of his life traveling, living in places like Paris, Cuba, and the Florida Keys. His time spent in Kansas City, first as a young cub reporter for The Kansas City Star and later in a brief but significant stays in the Johnson County area that remains less widely known.  Read the full article on the JoCoHistory Blog.


Meet the 2023 Writers Conference Presenter: Matt Crist

Peer critique is essential for any writer! We’ve invited Matt Crist, JoCoLibrary staff member and fellow writer, to offer craft critique at this year’s Writers Conference. Matthew is an information specialist at the Lenexa Branch, but he is also an avid writer with two manuscripts and a dozen short stories lying around. He loves discussing all things related to writing, ideas, creativity and the arts. This will be a fun, casual setting where no judgement is allowed. You can find Matt in the open area outside of the Carmack Room with other drop-in activity tables to peruse in-between sessions.

You can register for the 2023 Writers Conference here. Registration isn’t required but is appreciated, and your RSVP includes both days of the conference, Nov. 3 and 4. Sessions are available on a first-come first-serve basis. We will also be hosting a Writers Conference Kickoff on Thursday, Nov. 2.

Inspired by this year’s conference book, By the Book: Writers on Literature and the Literary Life from The New York Times Book Review, we asked Matt a few questions to get to know him better:

 1. What's in your TBR pile? 

In my TBR pile I have so many books I have no idea where to begin.

2. What are you reading right now? 

Currently, I'm finishing up Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy with a few friends. I've been reading it since January. When people ask me what it's about, I just say: "Everything."

3. Do you have a favorite book you love to recommend? 

I love recommending Mark Danielewski's House of Leaves. Telling people about that book never gets old.

4. Do you have a favorite bookstore? 

I once visited a bookstore in Ann Arbor, Michigan that had a mummy case!

5. Answer the question you wish we had asked.

What do I love the most about writing? I love taking the chaos in my head, whether tragic or rhapsodic, and letting other people experience it on the page.


No Wait Wednesday: Charm City Rocks by Matthew Norman

Hello and welcome to this week's edition of #NoWaitWednesday, where we take a look at a title from our adult New Release shelf that's just waiting for a lucky patron to discover it. Fantasy, science fiction, mystery, thriller, horror - we look at all kinds of books here at #NoWaitWednesday, however it's been a while since we've looked at romance in this space. It seems all of Kansas City is buzzing about the relationship between Travis Kelce of the Kansas City Chiefs and Taylor Swift, one of the biggest pop stars on the planet. Even though Kelce is a star in his own right, Swift is several degrees of magnitude larger, and I'm sure there's something about dating someone like that that comes with its own difficulties. Let's dive in to a novel about a romance between a rock star and a regular guy and the obstacles that just might come from it: Charm City Rocks by Matthew Norman. (Maybe we can give Travis some tips!) (While we're on the topic of romance - have you listened to our latest JoCoLibrary Uncovered podcast about some of our favorite romance novels?)  

In Charm City Rocks, Billy Perkins is a single dad deep in his 40s whose life hasn't turned out exactly the way he thought. However, on the main he's doing pretty okay for himself: he's a music teacher who lives in an apartment above a local Baltimore record store, Charm City Rocks, and the most important thing in his life is his teenage son, Caleb, who's a high school student looking ahead to college. While Billy is divorced, he has a great relationship with his ex, and he enjoys nothing more than hanging out and watch music documentaries with Caleb. When the topic of an all-female indie rock band that became the hottest thing on the charts for a short minute back in the day comes up, Billy mentions that he had an immense crush on the band's drummer, Margot Hammer, who retreated from the limelight after a famous - and disastrous - performance on the national stage. She then married a famous actor after the breakup of the band, and, while currently separated, lives a quiet life in New York City.

Caleb goes to the internet and arranges a meet-cute between his dad and Margot, who travels down to Baltimore, and after meeting Billy, does an impromptu sit-in playing drums with local bar band. She thought she had put her music career behind her, but caught up in the moment, her electrifying performance goes viral, reminding the world of her talent and igniting a long-dormant interest from her record company. While in Baltimore, Margot not only strikes up a relationship with Billy and meets a charming, eccentric cast of locals, but she also starts wondering what a second chance at a music career might look like - and who she might want to spend that career with.

Smart, warm, and comfy, and more sweet than spicy, this feel-good Generation X romance novel is all about second chances, perfect for fans of Linda Holmes or Annabel Monaghan. As adult characters with almost-grown children approaching middle age, Billy and Margot both bring a lot of baggage to their relationship, and the novel takes care to portray their passions and obstacles with care: Billy is a centered nice guy but has a lack of ambition and can't help but be a bit star-struck in his crush's presence, while Margot's previous fame-driven relationships, a parasitic music industry, and a fear of betrayal continue to haunt her. I love that Norman's novel looks at the realistic difficulties that a more mature relationship brings - bodies don't work exactly like they did in their 20s, for example, and both characters have children who need to be prioritized in whatever future they create. But with time and a bit of work, these two might just make it. Norman also uses the charm of the old-town neighborhoods of Baltimore as a perfect backdrop to this romance novel that deserves to be on your hold list. Check it out!


Meet the 2023 Writers Conference Presenter: Cassidy Coles

When was the last time your work felt like play?  Cassidy Coles can help guide you on how to connect to your characters, storyline, and self through a series of creative games and exercises at this year’s Writers Conference. Do pencil sports, build a toy to compel you toward your vision, craft a musical playlist for a character, or try your hand at flash fiction to get those synapses firing! You can find Cassidy’s station with the other drop-in activity tables in the open space near the Carmack Community Room.

Cassidy Coles is a staff editor on the Johnson County Library's teen literary magazine, elementia. Her work in the Library has ranged from hosting weekly storytimes to providing Library services to incarcerated populations. A homeschooling parent with an elementary education background, she writes with her kids by day and spends the wee hours crafting her own poems and stories.

You can register for the 2023 Writers Conference here. Registration isn’t required but is appreciated, and your RSVP includes both days of the conference, Nov. 3 and 4. Sessions are available on a first-come first-serve basis. We will also be hosting a Writers Conference Kickoff on Thursday, Nov. 2.

Inspired by this year’s conference book, By the Book: Writers on Literature and the Literary Life from The New York Times Book Review, we asked Cassidy a few questions to get to know her better:

1. What's in your TBR pile? 

If I Was a Horse by Sophie Blackall

The Librarianist by Patrick deWitt

The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner

2. What are you reading right now? 

Ulysses by James Joyce

The Bartender's Tale by Ivan Doig

The Eyes and the Impossible by Dave Eggers

3. Do you have a favorite book you love to recommend? 

Moby Dick by Herman Melville

4. Do you have a favorite bookstore? 

The Raven Book Store in Lawrence, KS. And be on the lookout for The Rabbit hOle, coming soon to North Kansas City! This museum for children's literature will likely include a bookshop.

5. Answer the question you wish we had asked.

Favorite quote about writing? Joan Didion: “I write entirely to find out what I'm thinking.


Writers Conference: RSVP and BYOT!

The Local Writers committee is SO excited that the 2023 conference is just around the corner—the first weekend in November! We’ll have a kickoff on Thursday and the conference will run all day Friday and Saturday. Make sure to “RSVP” here. Registration isn’t required but is appreciated, and your RSVP includes both days of the conference, Nov. 3 and 4. Sessions are available on a first-come first-serve basis. We will also be hosting a Writers Conference Kickoff on Thursday, Nov. 2. 

 This year you have the option to BYOT—Bring Your Own T-shirt! Bring a cotton t-shirt (or bag, or hat) and we’ll use the heat press from our Makerspace to adhere a vinyl “Writers Conference” design to your shirt. You can have a piece of the conference with you forever! The heat press will be available the night of the kickoff as well as available on both days of the conference, while the supplies of pre-printed vinyl stickers last. 

 Stay tuned for the conference schedule reveal! 


This Week at the Library

This week at the Library, you can join us at: 

Bilingual Storytime – Monday, Oct. 16, 10:30 – 11 a.m.

The whole family will enjoy stories, songs, fingerplays and movement activities in both English and another language at Central Resource Library. Exposure to other languages can help develop early language learning and boost pre-reading skills. Fun for the whole family.

Toda la familia podrá disfrutar tanto en inglés como en otros idiomas: historias, canciones, juegos de manos y dedos, y actividades para trabajar el movimiento con los niños. El contacto con otros idiomas en los niños ayuda a desarrollar el aprendizaje temprano y a mejorar las habilidades de prelectura. Habrá diversión para toda la familia.

READ to A Dog with Pets For Life – Tuesday, Oct. 17 & Nov. 21, 3:30 – 5 p.m.

Join us at Central Resource Library for the Reading Education Assistance Dogs (R.E.A.D.) program that improves children’s reading and communication skills by employing a powerful method: reading to a registered therapy dog or cat! These animals volunteer with their owner/handlers as a team. Please note: space is limited for this program; kids will get a ticket at arrival and wait their turn to read to one of several animals.

Permission to Withdraw: Enjoying Your Retirement Savings Without Outliving Them – Wednesday, Oct. 18, 10 – 11 a.m.

Come to this featured event at the Central Resource Library. Once you have accumulated retirement funds during your working years, it is time to retire and to start withdrawing from those funds and enjoying your retirement years. But the key question is: Just how much can I afford to withdraw each year without incurring the risk of running out of money? The answer depends in large part upon how those funds are invested, and so your investment strategy may be the key to answering that question. Emerson Hartzler, retired finance executive, will address that key question. You may be surprised by the answer!

Candidate Forum: Overland Park City Council Candidates (Wards 5-6) – Wednesday, Oct. 18, 6 – 7 p.m.

The Shawnee Mission and Blue Valley Post will be hosting 11 nights of local candidate forums ahead of the Nov. 7 general election, giving Johnson County voters a chance to hear directly from the candidates who want to represent them in city government and on school boards. This forum will be held at the Blue Valley Library. The full list of events is here.

Caregiver Workshop: Music Matters – Wednesday, Oct. 18, 6:30 – 7:30 p.m.

Discover how music can have a positive effect on your child’s development. Kristi Hanson, music therapist and owner of Stepping Stones KC, will share practical ways music can affect behavior, emotional regulation, and keep early learning fun! Designed for caregivers of children ages 0-6. All caregivers welcome.

And there’s much more happening this week … 

Already have a busy week?  Remember, you can watch recordings of many of our programs at your convenience with Library OnDemand


Writers Conference

Our Writers Conference is coming up Nov. 2-4. Read all about the presenters as we post our interviews with them in the weeks leading up to November -- and RSVP for the Conference!

Check out the Full 2023 Writers Conference Schedule (PDF, TXT) or the Schedule at a Glance (PDF, TXT).


From History to Horror: Gardner Information Specialist Groups Library Collection Into Themed Online Lists

To-do lists keep us on task and grocery lists ensure we come home with everything we intended to buy. But prioritization is much more daunting when it comes to the Johnson County Library’s vast collection. Enter Matt Imrie.

A native of South Africa who found his way to our region by marrying a woman from Paola, Kansas, Imrie’s official Library role is as a youth services information specialist in Gardner.

But his unofficial title is that of the Library’s king of lists, serving patrons by grouping books, music, and movies around many themes. His lists appear on bibliocommons, the third-party platform the Library uses for its electronic catalog.

Imrie pursues his avocation through the belief that reader’s advisory is one of the library’s core services, making a collection of more than one million items more accessible to users.

“No one can trawl through everything to find everything they want,” he said. He likes introducing users to older works that are sometimes overshadowed by new releases.

Since starting with a Halloween series in October 2019, Imrie has compiled nearly 800 lists around topics as diverse as Kansas history and “The Rocky Horror Show.”

Imrie has also parsed the library’s holdings around jokes, world events, and celebrity deaths. Imrie highlighted U.S. history as he studied to become a U.S. citizen and found material on the loss of a loved one while grieving for his father, who passed away from COVID-19 early on in the pandemic.

His recent handiwork marked the 40th anniversary of a little-known incident that brought the world to the brink of nuclear armageddon and noted the beginning of the Jewish holiday of Sukkot.

BiblioCommons serves libraries throughout the U.S. and internationally, and Imrie presented on the art of list creation and curation at last year’s users conference. He spoke about his father's death as an example of finding inspiration from various places.

If pressed for time, Imrie can compile resources in a matter of minutes, such as finding as much material as he could when musician Jimmy Buffett died in September. But in other instances, Imrie might take hours or days to find the right mix.

“I try to be as thoughtful as I can and make sure that it's balanced for a wide range of readers,” he said.

This year marks 50 years since “The Rocky Horror Show” debuted as a musical, and Imrie counts that list as one of his favorites. The movie version came out in 1975.

Imrie got to thinking about all the movies referenced in the opening song of the production, “Science Fiction/Double Feature.”

He thought, “Hey, these are all movies that I’ve seen and I’ve enjoyed. I wonder if the library has them.” He liked the list because it demonstrated that he himself could learn something from a list he put together.

Imrie is even working on a master list of all the lists compiled for the Library. “It's not the easiest thing to find specific collections,” he said.