This week’s section is on IG-er:
- Tell me a little about yourself : “I guess I’ll start off with the standard my name is Rebecca and I am going on 32. (but at this point, who
even bothers counting?) I live in Australia and am a photo editor by trade – I’m never too far away
from my computer, smart phone or a book!
I enjoy travelling and have spent extensive time overseas – but have put the travelling on hold for a few years as I am a student who is purchasing a home.
My interests include collecting both ‘retro’ fiction and women’s and teen magazines – I have quite the collection. Ultimately, I plan on scanning and digitally archiving the covers of most of the material I own so that fellow enthusiasts have access to a trove of high resolution images, something which the internet is generally lacking.
My interest in ‘retro’ popular culture extends to music, film and architecture/decor as well. My greatest dream is to be able travel to a destination AND a time period. How amazing would that be? I’d definitely go back to the 1970s and chill for a little while!”
- What made you want to start the Retro Reads IG? “The Instagram account @retro_reads simply started as a way to promote the Facebook group a friend and I had started two years earlier. I had started collecting YA fiction from the 1970s and 1980s back in 2012 after stumbling across the
Cliquey Pizza blog. I was amazed at the amount of teen fiction that I’d never known existed and that I wanted to read. This of course lead to me spending a small fortune on buying used books online. (Shipping a book to Australia from the US is the equivalent to the down payment on a mortgage, let me tell you!) Thankfully, I’ve since found cheaper ways to source used books online (and embraced
eBooks and the Open Library), but it’s been a pretty expensive process all up!
As well as buying books that I’d never known about up until that point, I also decided to finish off my Sweet Valley and The Baby Sitters Club book collections, as well as a handful of others. (The list of collections has grown significantly!) Between the two series there are well over 1000 books so buying in bulk become essential if I was to be cost effective – this meant that I’d often have a surplus of ‘doubles’. In 2014, I decided to put the excess books on Gumtree (Similar to Craig’s List) in hope that somebody would shell out the $1 – $4 I wanted per book – not thinking that anybody would really be that interested or willing to fork out $4 for a paperback from the 1980s. Boy was I wrong! Enter the lovely Renee, a fellow Aussie who lived on the other side of the country. She was desperately trying to collect the entire Sweet Valley and The Baby Sitter’s Club sets for her daughter for Christmas.
(What child of the 80s or 90s didn’t want her as a mum, I mean seriously!) We swapped a handful of books between us and then came up with the idea to start a Facebook ‘Buy Swap Sell’ group as we had discovered a handful of others in Australia who were collecting similar books. What initially started off as a small group of us, trading, buying and selling books has now turned into an international group of over 2000 collectors selling hundreds of books per month. We don’t just stop at The Baby Sitter’s Club and Sweet Valley books – other series such as Fear Street, Goosebumps, Point Horror and any Young Adult or Middle Grade fiction from the 1970s-2000 is welcome. It’s become a great hub to not only buy, swap or sell but to discuss books and share news on any upcoming re-releases etc.The Instagram account naturally grew from there. If you look at my older posts, it’s mainly me trying to ‘recruit’ people into the Facebook group, but it soon became so much more. I loved searching for covers to share with my followers – I had soon gained quite a few loyal supporters who really loved the content I posted. The covers and the artwork on these older books, I feel, is half of the magic. I
know they say don’t judge a book by it’s cover, but… well…
I generally only post high resolution images. I think my background in photography/editing makes me a little pedantic about image quality. Quite a lot of the book covers I post have creased covers, or markings etc. When I can, I remove these in Photoshop before posting. Often I try and provide some witty commentary about the book cover (I generally fail miserably) or a little information about the book, author, series or relevant topic. I’m by no means the first or the best retro book related Instagram account. There are a handful of other amazing accounts who also post similar content – I love seeing what they post as they often have books I’ve never seen before. I think my point of difference is that I don’t so much photograph my collections but just provide (scanned) images of the covers. I like to think of my account as a mini
archive as well as a homage to retro fiction. As well as this, I also have a similar Instagram account which I have just started – @magazine_memories. The concept is similar to @retro_reads – Sharing content that hopefully sparkssome great memories for my followers.”
- Who is your favorite YA author and why? “That’s easy, as cliché as it is for most retro YA enthusiasts – Judy Blume!
I was about 9 or 10 when I read my first Judy Blume novel (Tales of a 4th Grade) and from then on, I was hooked – I had soon read her entire collection of works. This was pretty impressive for a kid who solely lived on a diet of Sweet Valley and The Baby Sitters Club. I was finally reading something real, something that spoke to me. Even as a child, I loved the way Judy wrote, her character dialogue was
realistic and relevant. She was never theatrical or over the top. There was no flowery prose, there was no exhaling or dramatic musing and sometimes nothing much happened. But that was okay, this was everyday life and what I wanted to read about. Her characters were often flawed, they didn’t always get their happy ending, but they always grew and with them, as a reader, I did too. Judy was never
patronizing or spoke down to her reader. We were kids, sure, but she got it. We understood and felt things that other adults didn’t think we did. She expressed the things we were all thinking and feeling, for us. Judy was the ‘Hashtag Relatable’ for the kids of the 1970s and 1980s. I remember often reading a line in a Blume book and thinking ‘Yeah! Me too!’ It’s not often an author can create such rich characters that remain relevant over several generations. Although I came to her books in the mid 1990s, these books were not only a comfort to me and a reassurance that I was normal, they were also nostalgic. Nostalgic, but never dated. Revisiting the books as an adult is never disappointing, but like putting on a favourite pair of slippers, ones that will always fit. I also like Mary Downing Hahn and Norma Klein, but I discovered them as an adult. For anybody who is a Judy Blume fan, I encourage you to check out the late Norma Klein. She was a good friend of Judy’s and their writing style is very similar. I do enjoy contemporary fiction as well – I generally read psychological thrillers. Stephen King is one of my favourite contemporary adult authors.”
- If you have to make a top five books to read while lounging the the pool what books would be on your list and why? “Truthfully, I’d probably in the pool as I’d LOVE swimming, but I’d have an audiobook on in the background because audiobooks are amazing and then I could swim and read!
BUT – If I had to choose (assuming you mean retro fiction): • Summer Sisters – Judy Blume
• Valley of the Dolls – Jacqueline Susann
• Steffie Can’t Come Out To Play – Fran Arrick
• Sheila Levine is Dead and Living in New York – Gail Parent
• Puberty Blues – Kathy Lette and Gabrielle Carey (An awesome Australian YA book from 1979 featuring the exploits of two teenage girls who join a surf gang)
- What was the first YA book you read as a teen that taught a valuable life lesson? What was the lesson? “Wow, this got deep! I don’t know if I’ve ever been a reader who takes away ‘valuable life lessons’ from a book. Even though Judy Blume’s books were insightful to me, it was purely because her characters were relatable. Admittedly, most of the books I’ve read as a younger person were ‘fluff’. I don’t think many life lessons can be learnt from Sweet Valley High or Gossip Girl. I’d love to give you a better answer! I do remember reading ‘Sex Education’ by Jenny Davies which was a really moving book. Despite the name, it’s not a ‘dirty book’ that you’d pass around to your classmates with passages underlined, but a touching story about two high school students who befriend a lonely and pregnant neighbour as part of a class assignment on caring for others. It’s definitely something I’ll have to read
again as I remember it being quite a beautiful, but sad story. So not really a ‘valuable life lesson’, but still a book that has stuck with me.”
- Is there any exciting news, upcoming events that have to do with your IG groups/facebook groups that you would like to share? ” I don’t really have anything exciting planned with the Instagram account, although I am hoping to eventually sort my books and set up my scanner and create more content. As I mentioned earlier, I am hoping to eventually scan, edit and upload covers in hi res from my collection which I’ll archive in some sort of fashion on my blog. Sadly, I don’t have all the retro YA books in the world, so I would love for it to become a project that other people get involved in. (Feel free to drop me a line if you can help out!) Everyone would get credit for anything they provided. Even though a lot of cover images are available online, most are stock images from Amazon or online used bookstores and the image quality is terrible, especially as screen resolution on mobile devices and computer screens keeps getting higher and higher. I know that other people have done similar things
with their collections and the Cliquey Pizza blog was the pioneer and definitely the inspiration behind my ‘book journey’, but sadly, she doesn’t blog anymore or have a huge archive of hi-res images.”
If you like to join one of Rebecca’s facebook groups or Instagrams or have any questions. Her contact information is: