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 get...so 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.