Sunday, 4 April 2010

Why I Blog...

When I started YA blogging back in January 2009 my whole intent was to use blogging to stock my under-resourced school with books that my students would want to read. That perhaps the thrill of receiving books that had been published in the last twenty years might ignite a spark in them that could possible develop into a love of reading.

Sixteen months later and I am no longer at that school, living in that city or even in that country. My whole reason for blogging in the first place has disappeared and yet I continue to do so. Sure I was able to donate hundreds of books to my school and the local community library but my altruistic reasons have now dissipated with my sojourn to Japan.

I started YA review blogging for the books. I admit it. I wanted as many free books as I could possibly get. I was one of those blogger whores who was out for what she could I could give them to my students.

Maybe that excuses me, maybe it doesn't. But what I want to explain is this. Should you look back on my archives you will see months where I was posting books reviews nearly every day. That's right...reading a book a day then posting a review that night. I was doing this while managing my day job - teaching part time and educational administration part time. My job revolved around teaching middle school kids English and History and then dealing with problematic behaviours...needless to say, the temptation to NOT read and NOT review at times was high. But even at my most blogger-whore worst, I was killing myself to show the publishers that their faith in me was not lost. I would genuinely thank them for being so generous, read/review and then email the links back. I was diligent, I was focussed, I didn't have a life for awhile but some of my students ignited!

Now I am in a completely different position. I don't get review copies. That's not entirely true, I have received around 4 titles in the four months I have been here in Japan. Publishers don't send here and nor should they have to, the postage is too costly. The titles I have received have been because the authors have requested the publisher to pull their thumb out. The rest of my reviews have been on titles that I have ordered from Book Depository.

I have gone from receiving anywhere between 2-15 review copies a week to nothing.

I think I am a better blogger for it.

I am now reviewing less often but thinking about my feelings about titles more deeply. I am reading more books that I tend to respond to. I am reading for me, instead of for others. I am happier and I feel less pressure. But then again, I am reviewing more critically than ever which is the downside to my reading more and more and more.

While the blog is updated less, the content is (hopefully) more thought out and more impactful. I am trying to enhance the quality over the quantity. If I vlog, I make sure I have content for people who can't (or choose not to) watch the vlog. If I am telling you why Team Gale rocks, I will acknowledge the attraction of Team Peeta. I am attempting to ween myself off memes. I am attempting to be creative whether it be the Top 100 YA Titles Poll or The Status Report. I am challenging myself to think more and diversify.

If I post a discussion, I want to have a clear point of view. I want my opinions to count. I want to be clear in my intentions. I want to be my own person and not influenced by friendships or pressure. I want my blog to reflect my own moral standpoint, my reading tastes and my abhorrence for flash over content. I think I am getting there... slowly.

I don't have 500, or 900 or 1500 followers. I don't run competitions. I don't interview authors I haven't read or didn't enjoy. If my blog does anything it caters to the approximately 250 people who read it day in and day out.

My lovely lurkers. They don't comment.

This used to bother me, but now not so much. They keep coming back. They might not comment but they read and ultimately that's what's important. (Because we all know how I feel about inconsequential comments). I value them and they seem to value me. That's what is important.

Would I love to be more widely read? Of course. I am not a saint. My tendency for narcissism is just as great as the average blogger. While I would love the popularity of Kristi at The Story Siren, or the critical appreciation like Steph Su (both bloggers I admire) - I realise I have my own little niche and that's fine. I recently ran a survey to ascertain what people responded to (and didn't) and it was remarkable uniform in results. I am considered fair and constructive. Regular readers like my reviews. I am consistently fair. If the word fair is the one that is attached to me, that is something I can be proud of.

What did shock me was who reads the blog. I seemingly have many more authors and publishing professionals reading my blog than bloggers themselves. Perhaps the survey is slanted, who knows? (Have your say here). But it was an interesting revelation nevertheless.

Why do I blog now? Free books aren't my motivation. They were never for me so as I am no longer at that library-less school, I have had to rethink my aims. I could have stopped blogging when I moved to Japan but I didn't. It was never an option. I love the community too much to give it away. It has given me so much...from my friends in new worlds whether publishing, writing or blogging... I am a rich lady.

Sixteen months ago, my passion was dormant. Now I realise how much reading (and YA reading at that) is a part of me. It has made me reconsider my employment options upon my return to Oz in December 2010 whether in publishing, English teaching or studying librarianship. It's given me some courage towards writing a manuscript that I might eventually finish, edit copiously then (perhaps) submit somewhere in a cowardly manner. It has allowed me to be a member of a YA award judging panel. I've been able to meet my hero-ine (not just in writing but flat out) in Melina Marchetta and push her work in the wider blogosphere. I now have Anne of GG-bosom buddies in most corners of the globe who perk me up when I am depressed, worry about me when I was ill and seemingly enjoy my random sense of humour. It has allowed me, to find me. Become me.

That sounds like a bunch of wank but it is true. I am following my joy - reading. Blogging has brought me to my own people and for that I am forever grateful. It is for this reason that I blog.


Aubrey (AKA Stacey) said...

This was perhaps the best most honest blog post I have ever read! Thank you so so much Adele for it!

I started out on my blog thinking, this is just going to be about what I am reading, no pressure to read what I don't want to, review what I don't want to, or stick to a schedule. I have lost that feeling somewhat and this blog was a GREAT reminder.

Thank you so much! I will keep lurking. (And commenting on occasion.)

the story siren said...

I love you Adele. I am one of those frequent lurkers, although I do comment occasionally.

Popularity is overrated. If i could trade your eloquence and style and frankly your overall awesomeness, I would.

I know I've said this before, but I truly admire you. You are one of the best bloggers out there. Hands down, no jokes about it.

I am envious of you.

Adele said...

Aubrey - thank you so much for taking the time to comment. I really appreciate your lovely words. I can sometimes be too honest for my own good and I am glad that it meant something (however tiny) to you. Thanks for lurking!

Kristi - I admire your dedication to blogging so much. I know first hand how many hours go into it and there is a reason why you are the pinnacle of the blog-mountain. Thank you for your gracious words, they mean a lot!

Karen Mahoney said...

And right here, another reason why I love you.

Adele, the blogosphere would be a poorer place without you - I mean that with 100% sincerity, even though it's sort of a cliche. You write with depth and with passion; with eloquence and intelligence; but most of all, your blog is written with HEART. It is stamped all over the place, even when you are talking about a book that didn't quite work for you. If anything, sometimes I think your blog name does you a disservice, because you are NOT snarky (no more so than the average person) - you are honest. That is a very rare quality online. Your honesty always comes across with a warmth, to me, whereas 'snark' can too often be cold.

I am so glad to know you and hope you continue to blog for a long time to come.

Lauren said...

I was thinking this week about doing a post on why I blog, kind of in response to some of the posts I've seen around recently about the downsides of blogging. Your blog is one of the few that was on my radar before I started my own last year, though I mostly just lurk because I enjoy your posts but don't often feel I have something to add.

I like how honest you are here about why you started blogging. Even if a blogger wants 'free' books for themselves rather than a good cause, I don't have a problem with that. Mainly because they're not really free (as blogging takes dedication) but also because I care more about content than motivation. That said, reading about someone's passion for reading definitely qualifies as interesting content. It's wonderful to hear that you get so much out of blogging.

ZoeAlea said...

I don't know why... but I was almost crying after reading this post. I am a frequent lurker, but I read from GoogleReader, so I don't comment much. I love your blog and I love how honest you are in your reviews. I also love how honest you were in this post... I still think you should come teach in California. I also like how you made me realize that Team Gale was possible, even though I'm on Team Peeta *for all I know that might change* I love your posts and I love that you blog.

Maria the Bookworm said...

I'm glad you kept blogging because you write such amazing reviews! I appreciate and value your opinion :)
Some might say that posting reviews often is what makes a blog "good", but then reading won't be fun anymore (just an obligation) because you won't have time to stop and think about the book you've just read. That itself is a big part of reading if you ask me.
I'm glad you are reading for yourself again. Even though you're reviewing more critically I think that's something every reviewer will go through because eventually as we read we learn what to look for in a book and develop our own "taste".
I really enjoyed your honest post, Adele :) I could relate to many parts of it, though I might not have that much experience with reviewing books.

campbele said...

Yes, lurkers are annoying! I even tried to give away books on my blog and got not a peep! Perhaps it was just my readings reminding me I was straying from center? As you allude to, we have to keep a focus to be for ourselves and readers.

A few years ago, when I lived in Taiwan I realized one way to get free access to books was to use my public library card! I was able to download both ebooks and audiobooks while overseas! Hope you have your library card with you?!

Amanda J. said...

I haven't been around all that long, and usually I'm too busy with school to stop and comment, but I love your blog. You're very informative, and while I may not comment often, I felt the need to tell you that my blogging experience is definitely better because I found your page. Thank you. :)

Adele said...

Karen - thank you. You made me rather misty. I hadn't thought about the blog title being something that could possibly be a hindrance but as soon as I read that, I realised it was true. I am too attached to it at this point, on a personal and blogging front to ever change it though.

Lauren - you are so right. If you are blogging for the right reasons it takes a significant amount of dedication. I used to spend 4-6 hours a night and more on weekends plus reading but now I use that time for twitter instead :P

Zoe - my lovely lurker, keep lurking. I appreciate it more than you could ever know. Long live Team Gale :)

Maria - you've hit the nail on the head. It's that time between finishing the final page and reviewing that determines the review. I used to write it immediately and now I leave it for a couple of days. I like to think it allows me to ponder some more and highlight the things (good or bad) that stick with me. Thanks for commenting!

Campbele - my lurkers are my loyal readers. If they don't comment then I can only really blame myself for not summoning an opinion in them. That being said, I'd prefer them to not comment than say something flimsy and meaningless.

I have no idea where the library is here but it's definitely worth a try. Thanks for the suggestion!

Amanda - thank you so much. I really appreciate your reading loyalty.

Pam said...

Good for you! I started in January 2009 as well and I do not accept books. Only once in a great while and I have requested a whole four books in my career. I like to keep my blog for me and post when I feel like it. I only take books from 3 different pubs and then I don't accept half of their pitches.

Carrie said...

I admit I'm a lurker - I'm a homeschooling mom with not a lot of extra time, so do most of my blog reading through Google Reader. I wanted to click through and let you know that I will continue to read your posts - and thanks for being so open and honest about your blogging experience.

Lisa Schroeder said...

Adele, I'm another one who mostly lurks, but I just wanted to say thank you for continuing to blog even if things have changed for you. I really love your blog!!

Angiegirl said...

You rock, Adele. Plain and simple. I've loved your blog for quite awhile now it seems. Would despair if you stopped and I wanted you to know that.

April (BooksandWine) said...

What a fabulous post! It's so awesome to see how blogging has enriched your life :-)

I like that you mention when you got review books, you actually reviewed them.

I'm not sure how many comments I leave, I'm not much of a lurker though.

So, you like blogging better without the ARCs? (Currently, I'm trying to decide if I want to take a hiatus from ARCs for summer)

That stated, your reviews rock and you are one classy lady!

Tye said...

I, for one, am certainly glad you continue to blog. Your honesty and forthrightness is something I aspire to every time I write a review.

And I certainly hope that we have the opportunity to meet in person one day. Like I said, if you do decide to pursue a career in a school library, I will take you in a heartbeat!!

All in all, I think you are without doubt, the very best kind of blogger, whatever your motivation and changes in motivation, I love reading what you write.

This may sound like a wank, but I think you are a total legend.

Tye :)

carmelina said...

You know I'm one of the lurkers, Ms Adele and I do love your blog for more reasons than you've always been so generous about my work. I'm a very bashful comments person and usually need about 100,000 words to get my point across but this was a lovely, honest as usual entry. I did chuckle because you are such a teacher in the way you explain things. Takes one to know one.

Mortgage Choice at Sutherland (9521 1611) said...

Hey, "Bunch of Wank"

I KNOW that book of yours. When you are ready it will not be submitted in a 'cowardly' manner.

As for your blog? I guess I'm a published author who does tune in regularly, but doesn't comment.

That's not because I don't have time to... it's more like Carmalina said... I'm a bashful blogger too.

Sorry...but don't stop blogging.
We need you.
Mo Johnson x

Aimee said...

One of your regular lurkers de-lurking to join the chorus of "we love what you do, keep it up!".

Your blog is a great resource for readers of YA and a joy to read in and of itself.

Sarahbear9789 said...

Adele! I love your blog so much. You are so awesome and have so many unique post.

melissa @ 1lbr said...

Call me a lurker. I keep hoping there are lurkers for my blog, cause I don't have a lot of comments. But, I loved this post and your blog, so thanks!

IS76 said...

oh, I guess I'll join in the de-lurking movement as well. I'm a regular lurker and irregular commenter but want to make the exception, break out of my comfort zone and voice my love for your blog. Like what most have said already, you are honest and fair and your writing is fantastic. But I want to add that you are also one of the most entertaining blogs out there. Anyone can have a blog but very few can actually make a blog informative, well-written, witty and fun all rolled up into one. That is why you are the one and only. Someone who can deliver informative and well reviewed pieces, often with a healthy sprinkling of pop cultural references, while waxing poetic about the hotness of Pacey and Logan, deserves lots of gold stars in my book

Ladybug said...

You really seem to be such an honest person, Adele. I can truly understand why not only avid readers but also authors and people in the publishing industry follow your blog. If a reviewer write honest and fair reviews there is plenty for the professionals to learn from reading it.

A book a day? I have to say that I'm actually glad you don't do that anymore. I'm pretty sure that is a large part of the reason why so many quits blogging. It becomes to much pressure and competition.

You are actually one of my blogging idols and I wish I was as clever with words as you are.

Tarie said...

*claps for Adele!*

"It has allowed me, to find me. Become me. . . . Blogging has brought me to my own people. . ."

It is the same for me. :o)

Lena said...

I am one of the lurkers who regularly reads your blog. I'm a YA librarian and your reviews really help me stay on top of new YA books and suggest them to teen readers, even if I don't have time to read them myself. Your opinions in reviews are really helpful to me. Sorry I don't comment more! I'm usually working at the reference desk while reading your reviews and don't really have time.

Anonymous said...

Very Interesting!
Thank You!