Thursday, September 10, 2020

Fun with First Chapter Fun

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN:  If we were lucky when we were little, someone put us on their lap and said “Once upon a time.” 

And we knew what would happen next: we were about to hear a story. We would be transported into another world, and find out  something new, and meet someone new, and go on an adventure.

And now, there is story time for grown-ups! Have you visited us at First Chapter Fun? Let me tell you the history.

Back when the pandemic started (Six months ago. Sigh.), a best-selling Canadian author named Hannah Mary MacKinnon (more on her in a minute), worried that her writer pals were going to get the book-tour rug pulled out from under them. No one could travel, and events were canceled, and it was/is horrible.  How would anyone learn about new books?  

As she puts it, she said to a couple of her unhappy pals: what if I just read your first chapter out loud on Facebook?

Turned out, her off-the-cuff idea got an instant positive response from her friends, and she decided to try it.

So starting in March, every day at 11:30 AM--I mean every single day--Hannah read the first chapter of a new book out loud. She paved the way, and figured out how to do it, with rights and permissions and graphics and all kinds of things that you might not ordinarily have thought of.

(Meanwhile, in Boston, I had exactly the same idea. (First I thought I would read my book out loud, a chapter a day. Then I thought no--no one wants to hear that.) Then I thought about reading other people’s books!  Then I thought no, there would be so many problems with rights and permissions that it be SO complicated that it would never work. And my book was due.

Then I heard about Hannah, and I thought--oh, hurray, she’s actually doing it! Brilliant. (And, as I soon learned, it was indeed terrifically complicated.)

I started listening to First Chapter Fun absolutely every day, and was completely hooked.

So then, because the world is amazing, my author friend Samantha Bailey suggested to Hannah that she read THE MURDER LIST, and she did! Incredible to hear her read it.  She has a mesmerizingly wonderful reading voice.

Then after 53 days in a row --– can you believe it, 53 days in a row at 11:30 precisely every day reading the first chapter out loud? How much work that is?-- Hannah announced she was going to end it.

And I didn’t blame her. It was an incredibly time-consuming and undertaking. 

But--I have to admit that I said to her:  don’t stop! I told her:  Everyone loves this, it’s such a benefit to writers, and the pandemic is still underway, and --I am happy to help.
Long story short, we now do it together, Tuesdays and Thursdays, and it is so much fun!  Live on Instagram and live on Facebook—at the same time! (it is hilarious, and live, and quite the technical juggle.

(You can find us here on Facebook  and on Instagram at @FirstChapterFun. You need to join the Facebook group, so just sign up and I will confirm you instantly.)

Today at 11:30 AM EST, we will be reading from JT Ellison’s GOOD GIRLS LIE. And, astonishingly, that is episode 89, can you believe it?

 And we archive all of our readings on Facebook videos, and in Instagram on IG TV. 

So you can catch up on – as of now – – 88 first chapters! We have read Elly Griffiths, Christina Alger and Lisa Unger and Kate White, Liz Constantine, Angie Kim, Heather Gudenkauf,  Damyanti Biswas, Samantha Downing...so many wonderful authors!

Oh, and Jenn McKinlay, and Deborah Crombie, and Hallie Ephron, and Rhys Bowen, with Lucy Burdette to come, and trying to wrangle Julia Spencer-Fleming!

And so many more fantastic authors already scheduled—Gilly Macmillan and SJ Bolton, and  Mike Chen and Andrea Bartz and Rick Mofina and Jennifer Chow--and we’re booking WAY into next year!

(I also make a video for each book, which is drawing on new skills! Here is one I did for today's reading.)



Have you tried First Chapter Fun? I’d adore you to come visit today! I bet you’ll be hooked. And starting next Tuesday, there’s a big time change: because Hannah’s children have school, we’re changing our time to 12:30 EST.

So grab some tea or a second cup of coffee, and come join us.  It lasts about 30 minutes, and the author is generally there, and everyone chats in the comments. SO fun! 

Do you like hearing books out loud? When was the last time you read something out loud to someone?

And a copy of Hannah's  super-best-selling SISTER DEAR to one lucky commenter! 

56 comments:

  1. First Chapter Fun is wonderful, Hank, and it’s a great thing that that you and Hannah are doing for authors and for all of us readers . . . . I really like First Chapter Fun even though I can’t always get to my computer when it’s live and so I end up listening to the archived readings, so I’m so glad that you archive them.

    I’ve read so many books aloud to the children in my classes, to my own children, to my grandchildren . . . it’s a wonderful way to share stories . . . .

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    1. That is wonderful ‘Joan! We love to see how many people are listening to the archives. What a treasure, right?
      What were the favorite books that you read?

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    2. Favorite books I’ve read with the children in school? Oh, there are so many . . . “The Very Hungry Caterpillar,” “Corduroy,” “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie,” “Clifford, the Big Red Dog,” “Where the Wild Things Are,” “William’s Doll,” “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?”
      Every year, the class favorite? “Miss Nelson Is Missing!” . . . .

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  2. My mother complained years ago that as a child I would not sit still to be read to. I preferred to do my own reading silently. Poor Mom. I did read to my son and he did seem to tolerate it better than I had. I don’t know if it’s an ADD thing but I’d still rather read than listen. Road trips are the exception. But I have managed to listen to a few First Chapters, so keep up the good work ladies!

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    1. Thank you! Yes, some kids get fidgety, I know! Maybe it has to do with not knowing where to look... Or impatience with the speed that someone else reads.

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  3. Oh happy day! I haven’t been able to catch these first chapters because I stay up so late and don’t usually get on the computer again until almost noon my time, Central Standard. So, now that the program is moving forward an hour in Eastern Standard Time, it will be 11:30 here, which will enable me to get on the computer in time. Yay! I might miss tomorrow, though, because we’re starting to move all the furniture out of Mother-in-law’s house. It just sold, and the buyers want possession in a couple of weeks.

    I live reading out loud. It was so much fun when my kids were growing up. The last time I read out loud to someone was when my younger granddaughter and I were taking turns reading to each other the first of the summer. First Chapter Fun is such a great idea, Hannah, and I’m glad you stepped up to help and kept it going, Hank.

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    1. Congratulations on selling your MIL's home, Kathy. Aside from all the work of clearing it out, that must be a huge relief, to know that last obligation is fulfilled.

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    2. Oh, good luck with the move! We will be thinking of you…

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    3. Yes, congrats, Kathy! Although I'm sure it's a bit bittersweet...

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  4. Thanks for that back story, Hank! I haven't yet dropped in to listen, so thanks for the reminder about the time change. And if you ever have a gap for an author, my hand is up. ;^)


    In the last decade I've been reading aloud to my young friends when they are over, more recently every other page or scene (neither is a super strong reader and I think they like doing it that way, too). Of course I read aloud constantly to my sons when they were young, who are both now voracious readers.

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    1. Delighted, Edith! We are booking into next year, so let us know when a book comes out that will hit in May or so!

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  5. Except for reading excerpts to each other from books we're reading, or news articles, we don't read out loud much these days. But we read to the girls every night of their lives for years. And on one memorable car trip, when my middle daughter was logging interstate driving hours before she could get her license, we all took turns reading the newest Harry Potter to her while she drove the agonizingly boring hours across Illinois and Iowa.

    My Audible account has been getting a workout this year, though. I've discovered that I can actually listen to an audiobook while vacuuming with the central vac! It's so much quieter than the normal kind, and it sure makes that dreary job more pleasant. Of course I've also listened to tons of books while working in the garden this year, too. And puttering around brings some passages back to me, too.

    I'll have to start listening to the first chapters again, thanks for the reminder. For awhile I'd read all the choices, oddly.

    Who knew there were so many hurdles to reading online, though. Will you speak to that, Hank, and tell us why it was so complicated?

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    1. It’s complicated because… Well, for many reasons. One, simply administratively. Making sure we get everyone’s book cover, and biographical information, and Book descriptions, and the PDF of the first chapter. . And the all important permission from the publisher! Since we cannot read without that.Then we each practice our selections, so we are not bumbling through them – – which gives us even more appreciation for audiobook actors .
      Hannah makes graphics and those have to be sent, and I’ll make the videos and those have to be sent.
      Then there is a lot of promotion for each reading on all platforms.
      We also do fun facts that we post on Friday and Monday, and the five fact videos that each author makes. Those have to be received and then organized and posted.
      Plus, the actual performance, We go live on my computer on Facebook, and on my iPad on Instagram at the same time, and cross fingers that the technology works. then afterward we post on all social media to make sure people know about it, and then archive all the videos with graphics and descriptions.
      It’s quite a task! We love it, but there are incredible number of moving parts.

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    2. Why must the publisher give permission? Since there is no paywall, and you're basically giving the authors free publicity, why doesn't this fall under fair use? I don't imagine you have a lot of pushback from the publishers when you ask for permission, but how is this different from doing a reading at a bookstore event? Or do publishers have to give permission for those, too?

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  6. It's such a wonderful idea Hank--thanks for helping Hannah keep it going. I'm in awe of your videos too!

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    1. Thank you! I love making the videos – that it is quite a different part of my brain.

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    2. Yes, Hank, your videos are amazing!!! I LOVE the one you did for A BITTER FEAST!!!

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  7. I have not been able to listen in. But I will! And like Edith, if you have a gap my hand is up. :)

    I read to both my kids. My daughter loved it and I (and she) still remembers reading the first Harry Potter books that way. My son tolerated it when he was very little, but as soon as he hit school, he preferred to be moving.

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  8. What a great service for authors and readers alike! Thank you Hannah and Hank.

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    1. And that is exactly what keeps us going! These are such horrible times, and we are hoping to give the spotlight to a lot of wonderful authors who are struggling!

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  9. Hank, you and Hannah Mary are amazing and I love tuning in to First Chapter Fun! Sometimes, like Joan, I listen to it later because mid-late mornings don't always work for me to be on the computer.

    I did love being read to as a child and was so happy that my baby was, from day 1, happy to snuggle up for story time. Pat the Bunny with the fuzzy page and the little mirror was just the start. The summer Jonathan turned 5 (I've written about this here before), I read him The Hobbit and then we took the entire school year (Kindergarten) to read LOTR before bedtime.

    He is a great reader. I adore reading to my grandchildren and I also loved reading to my classes when I was a teacher. Jonathan and his wife gave us a subscription to Audible and I am putting it to good use, listening when I am cooking or doing other things that don't call for my full attention. I was very surprised to realize that I still love being read to!

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    1. Oh, it is so wonderful to see that people are going to the archives! Great.
      And what memories of reading out loud… Those books will always be special, right?

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    2. Wow, Judy, LOTR seems a bit daunting for a kindergartner! Did he love it? Now I'm wondering if I could start reading The Hobbit to Wren, who will be five (I can't believe it!) in February. Maybe we could do on FB messenger, since I don't have FaceTime.

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  10. I love First Chapter Fun, and try to at least check in on every episode. Your 11:30 am time slot is a direct hit on my every Tuesday/Thursday 10:30 am (Central Time) mandatory staff meeting, so I always have to listen via the archives. Just as much fun, without the urge to comment. I'm happy to know that I'll be able to check in for real soon!

    My mother read to my sister and me every night before bed, when we were little. Later, when my sister was in middle school, she turned the tables and read our favorite fantasy book series aloud to Mom while she was working in the kitchen. (Lloyd Alexander's Chronicles of Prydain, decades before Harry Potter.)

    From that early beginning, I grew up to get a BFA in Theatre and Interpretation. That sounds terribly artsy, but the "interpretation" part is basically just reading aloud. I don't get much opportunity to read fiction aloud these days, but I am doing more voice-overs for our concert broadcasts. It's fun!

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    1. Oh, yes, seriously, the reading out loud is SO tricky! How much do you "act," and how much not? And we practice and mark up the pages beforehand. Hannah and I sound so different, too, but I think that's good.

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  11. Now that I am no longer a reading teacher I truly miss reading to the little ones. For a while reading to my grandchildren filled that hole but now they are older and often to not want to hear the stories I want to read. For the longest time I would never read a new children's book just to myself, I had to read it to a child first. Same with kids' DVDs, I wanted to experience it with them which is why there are still movies I have never seen.

    I do keep hearing about your First Chapter Fun and I must try to watch. Maybe if I set the timer that would work. Sounds like such a great idea you had!

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    1. YAY! Love you to be there. On Tuesday and Thursday at 12:30 pm EST.

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  12. I haven't done this yet, Hank, being one of those people who hate being read to. I only listen to audiobooks when I can't read to myself, as when I'm driving across the country. And that's something I plan never to do again! But for those who like to be read to, what a great thing you are doing, and what a frabjous way to get the news out there about new books on the horizon.

    Julie and I do attend quite a few of the crowdcast/zoom type events, although I must admit I pay no attention to the readers. I go for the adult beverages and fun company, far prefer the comments. Nonetheless, I've discovered a few writers that are new to me, and I've bought a number of books, mostly on Julie's recommendation.

    Keep up the good work, and I do know that work is operative here. You have to be putting in lots of time on this project. Kudos.

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    1. I like them because they're like the samples they can no longer pass out at the grocery store. You get just a taste of the book to see if it's something you want to consume more of!

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    2. And it's also a good way to get introduced to new authors! And one chapter is just a taste, not a commitment.

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  13. Hank, in the pre-cochlear implant days, I remember trying to read aloud a storybook to a 2 year old relative and she got so mad at me because my speech was not clear. I really felt bad for her because I could totally understand the frustration. I remember being frustrated when I lost my hearing and most people did not know Sign Language.

    Now the words I pronounce are clearer though my voice still sounds like my voice did before I lost my hearing.

    Do I like words said aloud? Only if I am familiar with the speaker. I am learning that each voice is like a fingerprint. I prefer to read a physical book while listening to a book on tape for listening practice.

    Congratulations on First Chapter First Fun. I tried it and I'm sorry to say it was not a good fit for me. Facebook is Not good about Captioning. Bookstore Virtual chats on Zoom are another problem. Most of the time they are Not captioned either.

    On another note, I am busy with the Author Academy. Yes, I am learning how to craft a novel online. And yes, the videos are CAPTIONED thanks to the author's husband who is a tech wizard!

    Diana

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    1. Oh, so exciting about Author Academy! WOW. I will look that right up..Keep us posted!
      (And yes, for us we have to use the technology as is, even though it's frustrating...)

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    2. It is a Private Facebook group. xoxo

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  14. I read to my grandchildren and loved it. Now they can read on their own but when there is something I wish to draw their attention to I begin reading an article or a paragraph that is interesting and intriguing.

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  15. I've only made one First Chapter reading because of work. Hannah was reading Deb's book. Really enjoyed myself. I keep forgetting to find the saved readings during my off time. I haven't read to anyone in years, which is probably a good thing. I just read Diana's comments. "Each voice is like a fingerprint". Such a beautiful statement.

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    1. Yes, so true.

      ANd so funny--we try to make sure Hannah gets the books featuring Brits--it sounds so perfect because of her accent!

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  16. I remember my grandmother always reading to me, the best memories! In grade school, every day we'd have to bring a healthy snack and eat it during story time, when the teacher would read to us. I remember so many books so vividly because of those reading times - one of my favorites, Mr. Popper's Penguins!

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    1. Oh,I havent thought about that book in years! Awww...

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  17. Ohhhhh...I see, the video doesn't work! I will fix as soon as First Chapter Fun is over today!

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  18. Since my husband is too busy to read I read to him. I have to be picky and find interesting, and captivating subjects for him to enjoy. It has been very successful and gives me great enjoyment.

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  19. I've heard about it, but I have yet to check it out. Thanks to the time difference, I've missed today, but I'll have to start tuning in Tuesdays and Thursdays as my work schedule allows. (If I have meetings, I can't joins live.)

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  20. Hank, you and Hannah are just amazing!!! I loved hearing how it all came together with the two of you, and I LOVED Hannah reading A BITTER FEAST with her wonderful accents. I am in awe that the two of you do all this (including JRW and your day job for you) and still manage to write!!

    I was read to by my grandmother, and I read every single night to my daughter until she hit the teens. She is now a voracious reader. And of course she reads to her daughter, and one of the things I'm missing most in the pandemic is having reading cuddles with my granddaughter.

    Here's an interesting thing. My son-in-law was never read to, so reading aloud to Wren has been a challenge for him. But he's learned, and can now read with expression and animation. Those of us who grew up being read to assume reading aloud comes naturally, but it's actually a learned skill.

    I love Audible. I listen all over the house, but especially every night in the bath before bed. It's my reward at the end of the day.

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    1. Aw..such a lovely picture of him reading to Wren! Awww.

      And thank you for the kind words! xxx

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  21. This is such a delightful respite from the world. I absolutely love knowing I can watchi it live or catch it later. I've found so many great new books because of FCF and it was an absolute thrill to have Hank read the first chapter! Delightful!

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    1. Everyone LOVED it! You have such a perfect voice for rom com, so it was truly fun to read.

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  22. Sounds like fun, so many books and even with the pandemic not enough time to read them all, but I love hearing about the new ones and adding them to my impossible to finish list. Sometimes I try and remember how we found what to read next in the olden days - like the 1980's, Sue Grafton, Sara Paretsky - without the internet Hannah's book sounds wonderfull creepy! xxx

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  23. Okay, I am having trouble embedding the videos. SO, just go to @FirstChapterFun on Facebook, and you can see them all!

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  24. First Chapter Fun is Great! I'll read news stories aloud to family on occasion, but it's been quite a while since I read a book to anyone.

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    1. Oh, thank you, Katherine! I think that's very valuable--Jonathan and I do that all the time!

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  25. This sounds wonderful - I'll definitely check it out! And how generous of both of you!

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  26. I absolutely love this idea! Who doesn't love to be read too?

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