Steph Kent and Logan Smalley

Recorded Thursday, October 15th, 2020

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Steph Kent and Logan Smalley

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Steph Kent and Logan Smalley’s book, The Call Me Ishmael Phone Book, is a revival of the yellow-pages directory you remember, but instead of contact information, it is filled with messages collected from book lovers all over the United States about the books that have changed their lives. 

One night in 2014, two readers named Logan Smalley and Stephanie Kent discussed their favorite literary opening lines. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” one suggested. “All of this happened, more or less,” the other pointed out. And then, one phrase came immediately to mind: “Call Me Ishmael.” The pair then embarked on a six year project compiling voicemails from readers about their most beloved books. In their new book, these voicemails and other featured items have been compiled in an interactive guide for any bibliophile.

Stephanie Kent is a writer and multimedia producer. Her recent work includes the Webby Award–winning Masters of Scale podcast, The Wall Street Journal’s premiere mobile-first news app, and a series of book reviews for Boxing Insider. During her time on staff at TED, Steph built community programs and brand engagement strategies. She was awarded a 2017 Creative Community Fellowship with National Arts Strategies Foundation and holds a BA in playwriting and literature from Emerson College. Stephanie writes a weekly newsletter on creativity, and is a competitive boxer.

Logan is the founding director of TED’s youth and education initiative, TED-Ed—an award-winning website, content format, and program offering that serves millions of teachers and students every day. Prior to working for TED, Logan was selected as a TED Fellow for his roles as director, editor, and composer of the nonprofit, feature-length film, Darius Goes West. Logan began his career as a special education teacher in his hometown of Athens, GA, and he currently lives and works in New York City.

“His characterization, by the people who study Herman Melville, is as a fortuitous witness, and he is described as insatiably curious. It’s kind of neat that this site stays true to that in some ways in that, from a characterization standpoint, Ishmael is still just collecting stories, and sharing them. He just happens to use a voice mailbox instead of a harpoon or a book or however.”

– Logan Smalley

Get ready to join Steph and Logan in conversation, Thursday, October 15th.

In the meantime, we invite you to take a moment now to help shape this upcoming conversation.

Check out the list of questions submitted by other registered attendees, and then vote to support any that match your interests.

Feel free to add your own question. Then spread the word to make sure others have the chance to help move your question to the top of the shared list.

  • 2

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    Who decided to base the book off of the yellow pages? The conceptual layout is one of my favorite parts!!

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    What is the last thing you saw or heard that moved you?

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    Did you know at the beginning of this project that it would become a book?

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    How has the pandemic affected you both as readers? Has the book been received differently than you anticipated?

  • 2

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    Was it difficult to find a publisher?

  • 1

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    Do you know about the Library B&B in Ann Arbor, MI? Each room has a different theme – poetry, little books, fiction.

  • 1

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    What did you each learn from this process? What was most surprising?

  • 1

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    How long did it take to collect all these calls and make them into a book?

  • 1

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    What was the editing process like for “the call me ishmael phone book”?

  • 1

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    Who had the idea to invite readers to call about their favorite book?

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    Who are some of your favorite authors, whether fiction or non-fiction, and have they influenced your writing?

  • 0

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    Grandma and I are very proud of both of you

  • 0

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    Who is your literary hero and why?