Photo by Kimberly Frost
We're all about pushing boundaries at Ye Olde Media Columne. Books aren't my traditional topic, but the return of the Best Unpublished Novel Contest (see Page 64 of our current issue) has kept books on my mind for the past few months.
Rebecca Joines Schinsky, better known in some circles as the Book Lady, was one of the contest's judges and serves on JRW's board of directors. She's also a self-styled book reviewer. Schinsky, who moved to Richmond four years ago with her husband, Bob, a financial adviser, was working at Barnes & Noble when she started her website, The Book Lady's Blog. It's three years old this month.
Never having written a book review, Schinsky just plunged into it, reviewing books she was reading for fun. Her audience grew as she visited other bookish blogs and commented on their posts.
Schinsky's reviews are more informal and conversational than those you typically read in newspapers and magazines. She's been known to call a few books "pantyworthy," meaning that she or other readers were so impressed with an author that they wanted to fling panties at him or her. Think John Irving, not Tom Jones.
Her rules are to give good criticism and be fair, never to review a friend's book and to review books in ways no one else has. "If I want to curse, I'll curse," Schinsky says, "or make up a word."
Every month, she receives 50 to 60 books and reads between 10 and 12 of them, except for the period between Thanksgiving and the New Year, when she takes a break and reads for fun.
After leaving Barnes & Noble, Schinsky moved on to a marketing job but was laid off last year. Now, Schinsky is a professional Book Lady.
She created a partnership with Fountain Bookstore, owned by Kelly Justice, in an effort to be part of Richmond's book scene; The Book Lady's Blog has more of a national audience than a local one. The partnership is not based on money, Schinsky says, because she prefers to maintain a friendship instead of a boss-employee relationship with Justice.
She and Justice also started a campaign called Get in Bed With a Book Blogger to encourage independent booksellers to partner with bloggers for purposes of cross-promotion.
Her friendship with Justice and service on the JRW board has allowed Schinsky to learn more about Richmond's writing scene, which is kind of a secret unless you're in it. "I've been really surprised" by the strength of writing talent, she says, pointing to authors Dean King and Michele Young-Stone.
As for Schinsky ever writing a novel herself? No way, she says. "I don't have the fiction bug."