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A Different Way of Doing Things: Book Blog UnCON

6 Apr

Perhaps you’ve heard of this small thing that’s brewing as an alternative to BEA Blogger Conference? The Book Blog UnCONFERENCE is the brain child of Jeff of The Reading Ape, and some prodding by a few other people, including Rebecca at The Book Lady’s Blog (and me, which mostly consisted of Twitter messages that just said, “YES!”).

I had the pleasure of attending the first two Book Blogger Conferences before they were bought by Reed Exhibitions, who runs Book Expo America. As a new blogger, the first year, I found the conference to be helpful and educational and I met some fellow bloggers that I never would’ve met or read otherwise. I didn’t know much about book blogging and having the opportunity to make connections with publishers, authors and fellow bloggers was a dream come true. I wasn’t taking review copies at that point, and I’d never thought that I’d have the audience to support such a leap. But here we are two years later, and I’m at a totally different place in my blogging.

I’m trying to actually make a career of this publishing thing – hence the Master’s in Publishing – and my scope of blogging is much broader. I feel privileged to have the connections in the industry that I do, but I also think I’ve got a long way to go.

At last year’s Book Blogger Con, I was less excited about the actual sessions, and more psyched about the connections I was making. One of my favorite moments from BBC: hanging out in the hallway with a bunch of fellow bloggers – some I knew and some I was just meeting for the first time – and discussing something totally unrelated to any formal session that was happening in the rooms around us. And those connections were far more impactful to me individually than some of the sessions BBC ran. Not because of the quality or topics of the sessions, but because I was at a different place with my blogging.

After some hullabaloo with registering for this year’s BBC, which included the powers that Be asking for blog stats, not publishing session topics or speakers and not making the BEA/BBC registration part clear, I was feeling very jaded by the whole shebang. I was not the only one. Jeff decided that we could totally host an alternative, one that is attendee driven, topic-focused, and organic. And the UnConference was born.

While it’s still in the planning phase, there’s a lot of excitement. The Center for Fiction has graciously offered up space for free, which means that registration for bloggers is free. A crucial part of making the UnCon successful is getting people to come, to suggest sessions, to just be their generally awesome selves.

Jeff noted this point on a follow-up post here that I want to reiterate. This is NOT a revolt or a protest, and its not directed at any one person or decision made by BEA/Reed. Its a matter of wanting to attend an event that’s by bloggers for bloggers, that takes our collective knowledge and puts it to work. We’re going to have plenty of time to interact with publishers and authors during BEA, but our needs and wants as bloggers are unique and we want an event just for us.

If this sounds like something you’re interested in attending, register HERE and follow the UnCon on Twitter for updates.

I’ll post next week with some conference session ideas I have, but please sign up and spread the word!


Book Blogger Appreciation Week 2011 – Who Do You Love?

13 Sep


Once again this year, I find myself behind the ball on Book Bloggers Appreciation Week. But I’ve figured out why – my birthday was last Friday, the 9th, and my mom’s birthday is the 14th, so in the middle of a very busy week, BBAW somehow always slips my mind. That being said, I love BBAW! The awards – and the short lists – are a great way to find new bloggers who are respected by their fellow bloggers. Think of it like the Screen Actors Guild Awards – your peers sending out their love. With that in mind, I want to highlight a few bloggers that are on my never-miss list. Even though my blog reading has been dismal lately (I promise, I will try to come say hello to everyone soon), there are a couple that I just never miss, even when my mouse hovers over the “Mark All As Read” button. Plus I know I’ve got good taste – many of my picks were also nominated for BBAW awards.

  1. Kit at Books are my Boyfriends is one of those bloggers that I read when I’m having a really crappy day, and I need a good laugh. The fact that it’s also about books is just a plus. Kit’s a new blogger and she just won the Best New Book Blog award. So like for real, she’s awesome. And not just as a blogger. I met Kit at BEA in May and we trekked to Brooklyn for some WORDyness, a ZAZEN reading, and pizza. Awesomesauce. Also she posts pictures like this of her on dates with her books.
  2. Greg at The New Dork Review of Books is my book twin. I’ve decided. You’re welcome, Greg. We seem to read a lot of the same books, sometimes without realizing it. Like that time earlier this year, when we both decided randomly to read Gone With the Wind. Yeah, that was kind of creepy. We also have not been agreeing on much. Sadly. But you know someone is a great blogger when I’m waiting to find out if he did or didn’t like the same book I did just so I can post an argument. I won’t stop reading just because we disagree, but we do like so many of the same books, it’s hard to stay away, even on my busiest of days. (We just won’t discuss the whole West of Here debacle). And he’s short-listed for Best Literary Fiction Book Blog.
  3. Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness because she manages to read non-fiction and blog about it in a way that makes me WANT to read all the biographies and current events and history books I collect but never read. And she doesn’t make me feel guilty for not being as knowledgeable about that stuff as she is. Aaaand she’s short-listed for Best Nonfiction Book Blog. (Man all my favorite bloggers and nominated for stuff and I’m not. I’m gonna get a complex.)
  4. Amy at Amy Reads manages, in four days, to go from YA fiction (Shutout) to fantasy (A Clash of Kings) to Nigerian literature (As The Crow Flies) without looking schizophrenic. It’s a rare talent. For real, I’ve tried that here, and my brain explodes.
  5. The Ape at The Reading Ape (he’s got a name ::ehem:: Jeff, but I like calling him the Ape) because he’s really smart and seemingly very intimidating, but actually is not in person. Wait. He’s still really smart, he’s just not that intimidating in person. He also seems very surprised by the fact that people are, like, scared of him. And when you meet him, it’s clear why. He’s very chill, which actually makes sense when you read his blog. It’s smart, but not overly intellectual. He expects a lot from what he reads, but isn’t pretentious about it. That says a lot when you’re talking about a Literature professor from Brooklyn.

So there we go. There’s a lot of great bloggers that I haven’t mentioned, but I haven’t had coffee yet, and my brain hurts from writing already. Who do you love to read (besides me, obviously)? Any bloggers I might not know about that you’d like to share?

Two Years…

11 Jul

…and counting!

Yesterday marked two years that I’ve been on this book blogging adventure. I felt like I should’ve checked the calendar or something, but nope…two years. And what a two years it’s been. I wish I can say I’d been more on top of my book stats since I started this blog, so I could have a sense of how many books and how many pages I’ve read. But I’ve never been that on top of it, which if you’ve been reading me for any amount of time, you already know :).

This blog started because I needed a separate place, away from my now-defunct personal blog, to talk about the books I was reading and the publishing news I was interested in. As great as my personal blog and the friends I made from it were, they really didn’t care about what I was reading, and I needed a new community to share my book love with. And boy, did I ever find one! I had no idea that this space would become what it has, and while I know some other book blogs, two years in, have massive followings and regular posts scheduled well in advance, I’m happy improving and maintaining what has become a place where quality matters over quantity. You guys are the reason I keep blogging even when I’m tired or I think I don’t have much to say. In those moments, I know that there are at least a few people out there who actually will read what I write, which is flattering as hell.

So thanks to all of you.

And as I mentioned in my Summer Reading: New Releases post, I’ll be hosting giveaways all week as my way of saying thank you. I’ll also be posting some reviews and talking about the end – the for-real end – of Harry Potter as the final installment of the film adaptations finally lands at 12:01 Friday morning. I’ll be there, obvi, and I will probably cry. Just a warning.

In the meantime, head over to my Facebook page, poke around, and give it a like. Call it your bloggoversary gift to me ;).

“I want to be brand new, I want to trade in these wings”

14 Jun

In case you haven’t popped over here lately, or you’re reading this in a feed reader, you might not have noticed that there are some aesthetic changes around here.

Go ahead.

Click through.

I’ll wait.

Don’t you love the green? I decided my blog was just too GRAY. It needed some color. So I put up some wallpaper, did a little sponge texture paint thing on the ceiling, laid down new floors, installed some tasteful crown molding and spiffied things up around here.

Also, you might notice a few new buttons to the right, over there —>

I’ve got a new Facebook page! Go like me!!

And there’s a new Tumblr as well! Let me know if you also have a Tumblr so I can follow you.

I decided to do some revamping because, let’s face it, I love this little corner of the internet, and after BEA, I really want everyone else to like it too. But we all know sex sells, and this blog needed to show a little thigh if it wanted to make some new friends ::wink, wink::

So let me know what you think. I’m really happy with the changes and I hope you like them too.

*The quote in today’s blog post title is from the Matt Nathanson song, “Church Clothes.”*

BEA Round-up – Sort of.

13 Jun

Ugh, it’s been well over week since I last posted, and several weeks since Book Expo America in NYC and I’m just now getting around to posting my thoughts? Blogger fail. I don’t know that I can bring myself to break down my entire BEA experience when 1) it’s been several weeks, 2) I’m terrible at taking notes/photos, and 3) there are some fantastic round-ups out there already, from some seriously fantastic bloggers who are way more on the ball than I am.

So. I’m not going to do it. If you haven’t read any round-ups yet, you probably don’t care about the minute-to-minute schedule of my week in NYC. But if you’re looking for some great synopses of the week, check these out:

Lori, my BEA buddy, and I did a lot of the same events, both on the Monday before BEA started and during the week. Check her posts here and here. (I could not have asked for a better partner to hit BEA and BBC week with. Seriously. She’s amazing! Especially since she let me tease her about taking the Subway.)

One of the splurges I let myself have during the week is getting theater-seating tickets for all the breakfasts (that means no food, but a seat in the back). This year, there were two Adult Author Breakfasts and one Children’s Author Breakfast. Beth Fish Reads also went to these events. Her recaps are here and here. My only notes are that I absolutely loved these events, but I was disappointed that during the first Adult breakfast, the only actual book they gave out was for Charlaine Harris. I’m not a Sookie fan at all and I didn’t even stay to see her talk since she was last on the docket. But Diane Keaton, Mindy Kaling and Jeffry Eugenides were absolutely fantastic and I’m looking forward to all three of their books.

As for the second Adult breakfast, I have a particular affinity for Jim Lehrer considering I live and work in DC, in a branch of the news business. My news-junkie self was all aflutter. His book looks great, and I have a feeling I’ll be cracking it open closer to the 2012 election cycle. The highlight of the breakfast though was Roger Ebert. I teared up several times, laughed even more, and got goosebumps. What an honor, seriously. I’m also excited for both Anne Enright’s book The Forgotten Waltz (release date: Oct. ’11) and Erik Larsen’s newest novel, In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin (currently on sale).

The Children’s Author breakfast was a highlight across the board. Every author – Sarah Dessen, Brian Selznick, Kevin Henkes and moderator (and actress) Julianne Moore – was enthusiastic and intelligent. Katharine Paterson, author of one of my favorites, Bridge to Terabithia and the upcoming Brother Sun, Sister Moon, also made an appearance and very aptly made this comment: “No one ever tweeted her way to wisdom.” Maybe my favorite soundbite of the week.

As for other events during the week, one of the conference sessions I most look forward to is the Editor’s Buzz Panel, but that session fell on Monday and I already had publisher events all day and had to miss the session. But BEA released the titles that would be highlighted, and I managed to snag every single one over the course of the week during autograph sessions. Dawn at She Is Too Fond of Books highlighted them here. I’m super excited that I got copies of every single book since some of them were HOT commodities, like Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus.

Also, when I went to meet Justin Torres, debut author of We the Animals, he was so excited about the buzz and attention his book was getting, he was practically jumping up and down. How refreshing to meet an author that is just as psyched as everyone else is. He was so sweet and gracious and I’m insanely excited to read his novel, out September 1st.

Most of my BEA week – Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday – were a flurry of author signings, Insight events, and meeting publishers. Some highlights:

    • Jane Lynch talking about her new book Happy Accidents and the amazing time she’s having on GLEE!
    • Tweeting to Scott Westerfeld (@ScottWesterfeld) because I just barely missed getting tickets to his signing for Goliath, the third in his awesome steampunk Levithian trilogy. AND HIM TWEETING ME BACK. AND RETWEETING MY REQUEST FOR A TICKET. Sadly, no one offered a ticket, but still…he tweeted back. Starstruck!
    • Another author Twitter moment – Emily St. John Mandel (@EmilyMandel) tweeted about my semicolon tattoo!
    • Having a chance to put names and faces together especially with some of my favorite publishing contacts.
    • Hitting WORD in Brooklyn on Friday for the launch of new publisher Red Lemonade, complete with readings, with possibly my new favorite blogger, Kit from Books are My Boyfriends – her blog about BBC and then our adventure is here. (Go read her! She’s amazing!)
    • The books, of course! (I’ll be posting later this week about some of my most anticipated BEA books so look out for that!)

Finally, the week culminated with Friday’s Book Blogger Convention. I loved the sessions, but I was more impacted by the contacts I made and the bloggers I met.  Meg and Kim had great roundups (linked to their names) of the actual sessions and other events. I will say, keynote speaker, Sarah Wendell of Smart Bitches, Trashy Books has made me think just a little bit harder about adding romance novels into my repertoire. Maybe. She was funny and smart (obvi) and a really fantastic choice to keynote the day. Quote of the day (about having an opinion or idea): “Run it up the flagpole and see who salutes.” Swoony face. (BTW, I’ve now got that on a Post-it at work. Excellent advice for all aspects of our lives, don’t you think?)

For me, this BEA felt really different from last year’s. I was there for books, yes, but it was much more about the people – the authors, the bloggers, the publicists and other publishing professionals – that I got to meet and interact with and learn from. I gave out far more business cards this year than last, proof that I was doing more networking than ever. I also got to meet the (ever elusive and not nearly as scary as he seems on the interwebs) Reading Ape, who recapped his BEA experience here and BBC here.

All in all, I had a wonderful week. I brought home more books than I would like to admit to, but I’m genuinely excited about all of them. I met some wonderful people who I look forward to working with and collaborating with and squeeing over some squee-worthy books with.

Did you go to BEA and/or BBC? Did you have totally different highlights than me? What did I miss??

POLL: To Rate or Not To Rate?

1 Feb

I’m in the process of writing some great blog posts (if I do say so myself), but in the meantime, I’m wondering if I should add a rating system to my reviews. Take the poll and also let me know what you think in the comments.

Tag! You’re It!

25 Oct

I’ve been in a blogging rut lately. I’m not sure what’s going on, but I apologize that it’s been almost two weeks since my last post. I’m reading too, it’s not like I’ve got nothing to blog about. C’est la vie! Sometimes all you need is a kick in the pants, and Lori at The Next Best Book Blog has tagged me for a meme. What perfect timing 🙂 Thanks Lori! (Also she does daily book-related quotes and today’s is wonderful: “Books are not made for furniture, but there is nothing else that so beautifully furnishes a house.” – Henry Ward Beecher)

The Rules:
(1) Accept the tag and link to the tagger at the beginning of your post.
(2) Answer the questions honestly in your post by listing four things.
(3) Pass on the love by picking four other people to tag and listing them at the bottom of your post. Notify them that you tagged them.
Four Things In My Handbag:

Four Favorite Things In My Bedroom:

  • The miles of bookcases (okay, so there are not miles, but one full wall is covered with bookcases, and there is another spine bookcase full and stacks on top of the dressers. There are nearly miles of books in my room.)
  • My bed – though it’s really more of a nest at this point. Big, fluffy feather comforter, and tons of pillows and seriously, the most comfortable mattress in the world. It’s amazing I manage to drag myself out of it every morning.
  • DVR – I am rarely home during actual prime time TV, so my DVR is one of those luxuries I cannot live without.
  • This StoryPeople print that my mom gave me a few years ago. If you’ve never checked out StoryPeople, I highly recommend it.

Four Things on My Desk:

  • Oh sweet wonderful 24″ iMac with your lovely large screen and cute little keyboard. I sing an ode to you every morning and curse my stupid work PC every single day. (Seriously, this computer is a Godsend and I need someone to teach me how to unlock the magical mysteries of it so I feel like I’m actually using it to it’s full potential. Anyone? Bueller?)
  • It’s not on my desk, but I have the best black-and-white print of an old-fashioned typewriter on the wall above the desk
  • A stained glass frog lamp. It’s adorbs.
  • My Digital SLR camera that is woefully under-used.

Four Things I’ve Always Wanted to Do (But Haven’t Yet):

  • Backpack across Europe.
  • Write a book.
  • Work for a publishing house.
  • Have a baby.

Four Things I Enjoy Very Much At The Moment:

  • Pumpkin-flavored anything. It’s one of my favorite parts of Fall.
  • Seasonal reading challenges – I’m struggling to get through Packing for Mars for the Fall challenge, but it’s purely because non-fiction takes me longer. The books itself is fantastic.
  • Food trucks
  • Sweater weather (Can you tell I love Fall?)

Four Songs I Can’t Get Out Of My Head:

  • King of Anything by Sara Bareilles
  • Catch My Disease by Ben Lee
  • What’d I Say by Ray Charles
  • The Halo/Walking on Sunshine mash-up from Glee

Four Things You Don’t Know About Me:

  • When I get stressed out, one of my favorite ways to chill out is with crayons and a coloring book.
  • I don’t really like red wine, no matter how much I’ve tried to find one that appeals to me. I’m purely a white wine fan. Though I am also a bit of a beer snob.
  • I’ve got a new man-friend. Who lives 1,400 miles away. Who doesn’t read. I KNOW. But we’re working on it. I’m totally smitten though. I’m mostly just including this here, because I want to tell EVERYONE 🙂
  • I’m uncertain how I feel about reading more books on my Must Read: Challenge list because of my lukewarm reaction to Catcher in the Rye. But the fact that lots of people were lukewarm about Catcher makes me feel less defective.

Four Bloggers I’m Tagging:

NYC/BEA/BBC Wrap-Up, Part 5

18 Jun

Wow, five wrap-up posts?

Who am I and what have I done with myself?

This will be the last of the “this is what I did with myself that whole time” posts, I promise, but Book Blogger Convention day was mostly the whole reason I went to NYC in the first place, so it deserves its own post. I have to admit that this long after the con, it’s been tough to remember what happened and what the sessions were about. So I’ve been skimming a lot of other fantastic posts like the one from Fizzy Thoughts, Girl from The GhettoKim’s at Sophisticated Dorkiness and a really comprehensive round-up from Kittling Books. The Reading Ape also wrote a great reaction post that highlighted some of the things I was also feeling, post-BBC but couldn’t quite articulate.

I don’t think I’m going to re-cap each of the panels individually because those great bloggers above (none of whom I got to meet, I would like to note — ::sadface::) did such a great job of it. But my reactions to the day’s events I think is more pertinent (at least to me when I go back and read this post later).

First of all, Maureen Johnson was amaze balls. I was familiar with her and her writing before BBC, even though I’m not primarily a YA reviewer. I read Suite Scarlett on my nook and have purchased the follow-up Scarlett Fever as an eBook as well. I’ve been following her on Twitter for quite a while, and she consistently makes me laugh at least once a day. I was expecting great things from her keynote and wasn’t disappointed.

There were some great quotes that I wanted to highlight (which lots of others have highlighted as well — I’m not that unique):

  • “Writing is something you do by yourself, but not because you want to be alone.”
  • “Bloggers are book activists.”
  • In response to the question I asked about a phenomenon I’d heard about on the BEA floor the day before, of an author having a “ghost Twitter-er”: “Writers should write their own stuff. It’s the least we can do.” This concept apparently stirred quite the pot — both from bloggers and from publicists, who emphasized that authors are encouraged to build their own audiences but shouldn’t lie about it.

In general I was really enthused by her encouragement of bloggers as a driving force on behalf of books.

Ron Hogan’s talk on professionalism was great, especially his opening line: “The war between critics and bloggers is over. And the bloggers won.” Talk about a cheer from the crowd. I really took a lot out of his presentation, even though I wasn’t very familiar with his site Beatrice beforehand. The biggest point was that bloggers and traditional critics shouldn’t be held to the same standards of professionalism because we operate in different ways. Newspapers don’t have to tell the FTC where they get the review copies they read, but bloggers do? (Apparently not anymore, as the FTC guidelines changed again.) But the question is, why wouldn’t we want to hold ourselves to a high standard? Isn’t it important that readers know who we are and potentially where our books are coming from? It’s something I hadn’t really considered before, since before BEA, I’d never received an ARC from a publisher to review. I never before felt that I had the audience to support ARC requests, and in all fairness, I wish there were a few more specifics in terms of guidelines for bloggers. As a relative newbie, I still feel a lot of times that I’m fumbling for answers or for “rules of the game.” I assumed that most of my readers knew that I own most of the books I’m reviewing (okay, I own all of them). But in the future, when I review a book that I received from a publisher, it’s something I plan on disclosing, because I don’t want any question of my integrity to be called into question. He definitely gave me some things to think about for the future of this blog.

After lunch, the panels were a bit hit or miss — I really enjoyed the Writing and Building Content panel and the Marketing panel. But both seemed to be kind of one note — Keep doing what you’re doing and be yourself. The Reading Ape made the point that I think can be used for both of them: What if what you’re doing sucks? I admit to feeling the little green jealousy monster when blogs that I think are fairly similar to mine and started after mine have more commenters, more followers, more everything, and I can’t seem to jump start an audience. Especially when I’m aware that one of the criteria publishers are looking for is number of commenters. I also know that Building Content is something I need to work at, but finding the time to blog regularly is tough. Rebecca from The Book Lady’s Blog gave me some great encouragement during a break between panels, that I think can apply to most of us struggling with content and writing. She asked how long I’d been blogging, and when I told her it’d been just less than a year, she told me that she (and most bloggers) took at least a year to find their voice, so to not beat myself up for not having it down pat yet. Most of the bloggers on the building content panel have been blogging for a long time, so developing a strategy and a schedule for blogging seems to be one of those places I need to work on.

The second two panels — Blogging With Social Responsibility and Impact of the Relationship Between Author and Blogger — felt less relevant to me. Both of those topics seem to be something that are only relevant if you have an audience to pay attention, and I’m still working on that part. Though I don’t discount anyone’s ability to create author relationships or to create change by blogging about it, its personally not something I’m focused on.

In short, what I’m taking away from BBC is that blogging takes work, but that there’s room for everyone out there. As long as you stay dedicated to your own voice and to your own reading, you can’t help but be successful. And that the only definition of success that matters is your own.

Bloggiesta Fin.

15 Jun

I knew that when I started Bloggiesta, I wasn’t going to be able to complete even half of what I put on my list. But I did get quite a bit done.

  • Finish BEA/BBC wrap-up post(s)
  • Update TBR list on Goodreads with BEA books
  • Review Stitches by David Small
  • Review The Passage by Justin Cronin
  • Register for BBAW
  • Update my “Read in 2010″ page, and organize alphabetically
  • Flush out and schedule Feature ideas
  • Update my Blogroll
  • Visit and comment on blogs that I’m lurking on
  • Complete the mini-challenge hosted by Kim and Jackie and complete the blog assessment here.
  • Research Web designers to give my blog a facelift
  • Register on at least 4 blog directories
  • Put together a rough reading schedule in order to complete or make an attempt at completing the Gilmore Girls challenge
  • Renew my library card in MD and register for a library card in DC and Alexandria, VA
  • Update my Google Reader feeds
  • Plan a one-year bloggiversary giveaway for July
  • Follow up with publishing house contacts I made at BEA
  • Find and follow/comment on blogs that are similar to my own
  • Register for ALA

I also participated in Mother Reader’s mini-challenge, by hitching up my big girl pants and requesting a couple of ARCs that I missed at BEA, but that I was dying for. I already received a galley of The Brave by Nicholas Evans, and promises from Scribner to send me a finished copy of The Emperor of All Maladies when it’s released in Oct. 2010.

While I didn’t get as much writing done as I’d hoped, I’m already noticing an uptick in my visitors (Welcome, new readers!), and I’m feeling altogether more secure and happy with my little blog here. I’m also in the process of some of these, like the two reviews, and planning Features and a reading schedule for the Gilmore Girls Challenge. I’m going to register for ALA this week, and stop by the libraries on my list next weekend. So while I didn’t complete all these things this weekend, this list is a good to-do reminder of things to continue working on.

I spent probably a total of 18 hours doing Bloggiesta things over the course of the weekend. Go me! Cause I also got a lot of homework done too!!

Thanks, Natasha, for being an excellent host 🙂

BBAW Official Registration Post

11 Jun


Hello judges! And if you’re not a judge, hello anyway!