Welcome to this new series! We’re shaking things up at Meeting the Authors. Once or twice per month, MTA is turning the tables to feature Book Bloggers. A huge and hearty welcome to the third book blogger to take the Turning the Tables Plunge!
Today we travel to State College, Pennsylvania to chat with Maria and David Marvin of Scintilla about how merging libraries, children’s literature, being grandparents, Reader Road Trips, being a librocubicularist, Earl Grey tea, owls, chocolate, and dragons come together as part of the their past and current book life.
Tell us a bit about yourselves.
We are Maria and David Marvin, also known as Scintilla. Our blog, www.scintilla.info, was the brainchild of Maria, and she was kind enough to invite David to play along in her toy box.
We are wife and husband, parents, and grandparents. We met in 1985 and married in 1986. We don’t know what every couple does early in their marriage to connect their lives together, but we merged our libraries. In 1999, Maria completed her M.A. in Curriculum and Instruction, with her project being children’s literature. In 2003 we came with our three sons to State College, PA.
Our oldest son and his wife have three amazing children, two girls and a boy. Becoming grandparents has been an incredible joy. Of course, they are the most beautiful and brilliant children ever born!
Why did you choose to be a book blogger or how did you come to be a book blogger? How long have you been bookblogging?
We began Scintilla in April, 2018, so we are right at 2 years. Our children were getting older and leaving the house, and Maria felt it was important that we have a shared activity that was just ours, that did not involve the children. Since books were always important to us (one of our very first dates was to a used book store in Indianapolis), her idea was to start a book blog. Much more fun than therapy.
Are you accepting requests at the moment? How do you prefer to be contacted?
Although we are accepting requests, we should probably be a little more selective since we are scheduled almost into June at this point! But typically an email to one of the Scintilla addresses is the best way to approach us. Maria does most of our children’s books, so those requests should go to [email protected]. Adult fiction and non-fiction requests can go to [email protected].
What information do you want to receive with the request?
A link to a secure account in the Caymans is always appreciated! 😉 Seriously, though, a little about the book, a little about the author, and maybe some books that might be similar in style and genre are helpful in making our decision. Also, if there are any specific deadlines or preferred dates for us to post. Again, we already have some reviews scheduled for June, so if you are in a hurry to get a review, we are not the right folks to approach!
What types of book blog posts do you offer? Reviews, interviews, book spotlight, guest posts, etc.
We typically do reviews. Sometimes we will review a whole series by an author, sometimes we will spotlight some books that fit a theme (especially with children’s picture books), sometimes we have fun with it by putting a recipe or teatime beverage that would pair well with a book or an author. We have not yet featured any guest posts or interviews, but we are not opposed to doing that someday.
Something that we have a lot of fun doing are “Reader Road Trips.” Maria usually writes these. We have featured local indie bookstores, our trip to the National Book Festival in Washington, DC, and some smaller book festivals as well. These give us a chance to get out and share the book love with others in person, as well as share our experiences with others through our blog.
What is your preferred book format to read? If digital, what digital file do you prefer?
David is old school and prefers print. Maria is more digital. But neither of us is so picky as to reject a book based on the format. Typically we like the .mobi or .epub format, but we have a lot of different e-readers so we can adjust to the formats we are given.
Do you only participate in official blog tours or do you accept requests from authors? Do you accept requests from indie authors, or indie publishers? Would you like to share a few of your favorite blog tour operators?
Dave has done several blog tours with Anne Cater. She is wonderful! He has just signed up to do blog tours also with Emma Welton (damppebbles.com) and Rachel Gilbey (Rachel’s Random Resources) but those are coming up later this spring. We do accept requests from indie authors and indie publishers. We are not opposed in principle to reviewing self-published books, but it is unusual for us to accept those requests. It has happened, though.
What is your preferred genre? Do you read nonfiction, memoirs, or any style of poetry? What genres do you NOT read?
Maria enjoys reading a variety of books, but usually reviews children’s books and cozy mysteries. She will also do the occasional thriller, mystery, or fantasy, especially if a recipe or tea seems to fit well with it! Dave is very eclectic. Science fiction, fantasy, and mysteries/thrillers are his go-to genres, but he also reads non-fiction, poetry, literary fiction, and various others that catch his eye. Maria will confirm that Dave is not very good at romance…nor at reviewing that genre. And it is rare (though not unheard of) for us to do horror. We like sleeping at night.
Do you write a review if you did not like the book? Do you use a star rating system for reviews you write?
No, and no. Our goal is to encourage people to read by giving them good books to read. There are too many books to waste time reading and then writing about a book we don’t enjoy. We don’t use a star rating system. If we like it, we review it. If we don’t like it, we don’t review it. It’s very much a pass/fail type of system.
Once contacted, when can the author or blog tour operator expect to hear from you?
We try to respond promptly, within a day or two. Unfortunately that is not always the reality–Dave recently went through some old emails and discovered to his horror that some requests had been missed going back a few months. He did quickly get back to those authors with an apology. Like we said above, though, replying and accepting does not mean we will always get to the reading and reviewing quickly.
What is your favorite aspect of bookblogging?
The goal for us was to have a project that brought us closer together. Talking about books, going on our Reader Road Trips, planning future reviews, working together on a labor of love has strengthened us as a couple and been a lot of fun. The other terrific aspect has been making new bookish friends. Dave has made an author friend in NYC who Maria believes must actually be his long-lost brother. We have become part of the local writers’ group (shout out to the Nittany Valley Writers’ Network!) and have become good friends with some local authors through that group.
What is an interesting reading quirk you have?
Maria is a librocubicularist and whenever possible likes to read a book in one sitting even if it has a heavy page count (think, last 4 Harry Potter books — one of the many reasons picture books are a superior format).
Dave has been known to read a series out of sequence, but he hates doing it and complains vigorously when blog tours, time, availability, etc. require it.
What would you choose as your mascot, spirit animal, or avatar and why?
Maria has been fond of owls since she saw Archimedes in Disney’s Sword in the Stone; so, long before they were pop culture trendy. She has owls on stationary, tote bags, pens, and mugs. However, her spirit animal would actually be a dragon, because … well, it’s a dragon. Dave loves cats, but Maria is deathly allergic to them, so they are his animal in spirit only.
What are you currently reading?
Dave is reading a couple of poetry books, American Sonnets for my Past and Future Assassins by Terrance Hayes and Tricks of Light by Thaddeus Rutkowski. Maria is devouring the latest Tom Clancy novel by Marc Cameron, Code of Honor. Actually, she devoured Pigeon Has to Go to School, by Mo Willems and did a re-read of Jumanji by Chris Van Allsburg with the grandkids for the book’s 30th anniversary.
What do you do when not reading or writing book blog posts?
Maria is loving the whole grandma gig. She is “Mimi” to our three preschool grandchildren, and loves spending as much time with them as possible–as well as the adults they live with. In addition to playing Grandpa, Dave enjoys being a volunteer on-air host for WPSU radio and is editing his first novel.
What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned about yourself through reading and book blogging?
Maria spent years reading academic journal articles, literary theory/criticism, and pretentious technical writing; now she’s totally ok reading things that are light, trendy, even cheesy, that she would have been embarrassed being caught reading 10 years ago. Beach read anyone? Pass the potato chips.
Also, spending 4 hours wrestling with the backend of WordPress is a legitimate thing that can greatly expand your adult vocabulary and use of metaphor.
What is the most enjoyable thing you’ve found through reading?
Different levels of chocolate intensity (milk, semisweet, dark) can greatly enhance the reading experience when matched to the appropriate literary genre. However, certain genres (like spy thrillers and satire) will always be best suited to salty snacks. Likewise, a cup of tea (earl grey, hot) can keep one going during a long reading session.
What do you miss about being a kid?
Reading a classic for the first time and savoring the experience.
What’s the last movie you watched and why did you choose to watch it?
We went to see 1917 with Dave’s sister and her family when we went to visit them. Dave’s sister was dying of cancer, and she wanted to see that movie. That was the last time we got to see her.
A giraffe knocks on your door and is wearing a bowler hat. What does he say and why is he there?
Hello, I have this delightful chapter book, Yours Sincerely, Giraffe by Megumi Iwasa about a fellow giraffe who finds a pen pal in a penguin. Do you perhaps know any inquisitive little folks who would enjoy such a tale? Anyone who likes the adventures of Flat Stanley would surely appreciate such a story. You do know someone, that’s great, please pass the book along with my compliments. Thank you kindly, must really run now, no time for tea. Have a pleasant day.
If you could ask your pet three questions, what would they be?
Seriously, did you not see that chipmunk? Why are you resisting a trip to the groomers–do you like running into furniture? Decide if you’re going to tattle, I’m not going to share.
It was wonderful to have the two of you on MTA. I am so deeply sorry to hear about your sister, Dave. Sending much love and warm hugs as you work your way through losing her. I am inspired by how your book blog came to be and that it has been so meaningful to your relationship. Here’s wishing you all the best!! – Camilla
email: [email protected]
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