My name is Elizabeth Burns. Ocean County asked me to speak about book blogging. Book blogging is personal – so I should tell you a bit more about myself.In my prior work life, I was a lawyer. I practiced law for about ten years, before deciding to become a librarian and returning to library school. My life as a librarian began here at Ocean County Library in 2001; and about five years ago I moved to the New Jersey State Library Talking Book and Braille Center. For most of that time, I’ve been a youth services librarian, working with children and teenagers.
What else about me? In 2008, I co-wrote Pop Goes the Library: Using Pop Culture to Connect with Your Whole Community.
Technically, that makes me an author (and it makes my parents proud) but it’s not a book that anyone other than librarians are going to read.
I write a blog called A Chair, A Fireplace and a Tea Cozy. I started it in 2005, and it’s mainly about teen books and publishing and book news, but I also write about movies and TV and sometimes even books for grownups. I’m going to talk more about the particulars of the blog and blogging in a moment.
After a couple of years of blogging, I wrote an article about blogging for School Library Journal, called Curl Up With a Cup of Tea and a Good Blog.
About three years ago, School Library Journal looked at the growing popularity of blogs and did a cover story called This Blog’s For You. Now I can say I’ve been a cover girl.In the summer of 2010, my blog moved to School Library Journal.First, what is a blog?Anyone here have a blog? Anyone read blogs?A blog is just an easy way to share, online, what you’re thinking. It’s nice because you don’t have to know anything very technical to make it work or get it on the Internet. Pretty much write and hit a button and boom, it’s there on the Internet for other people to read.A blog can be about anything, from fashion to clothes to family to food.
Because blogs are just an easy, quick way of putting something up on the Internet, they’ve gotten popular. Newspapers and magazines and even stores have blogs as part of their websites, including The New York Times.
I like books, so that’s what I write about. Some people think blogs are very “me, me, me”, and I guess, in a way they are. I confess to sometimes posting a photo of my cat; but for the most part, it’s about books and bookish things.
But back to my blog, Tea Cozy, and why I started it. Seven years ago, much less people were blogging; fewer official places had blogs. Why did I start book blogging? The answer is quite simple: to talk about books. Anyone here, like to talk about books?I thought so.Here’s the thing: while I like reading all sorts of books, the books I wanted to talk about where mainly teen books. I’m a teen and children’s librarian, so that makes sense
And this was back in 2005, before books like The Book Thief, Twilight, and Hunger Games made reading young adult books popular.
Even working at a library – I was working here at Ocean County Library at the time – doesn’t guarantee that the people you’re working with are reading the same books you are, especially when it’s genre books, like teen books or romance or science fiction.The conversation: this may be the part that is most exciting about blogs. Because what is unique, what is unique about each and every blog, is the voice of the person writing. It makes individual blogs interesting to read; and it is also what creates the conversation. A conversation is not just you saying something, and me answering. It’s not just spoken words; it’s written words.
Here’s one way to look at it. I was the one person at my library reading these books, looking for someone to talk to. All across the country, in schools or in libraries, were people who were that “one person.” Or, maybe, it was someone not even in a school or library but just someone who, well, liked books. Like these books. But singular. Blogs and other online social networks changes that. How does that work? How does it go from one person on a computer to a bunch of people? And to be honest, that bunch of people tend to be a bunch of people … in their own homes.So a person in their own home. With a computer. Wanting to write about books. What next?For me, I knew what I wanted to write about. That was actually the easy part. Probably figuring out the title of the blog was the hardest part.Think, for a second. If you started a book blog, what would you call it?Here are some of the ones that are already taken: Bookshelves of Doom. Dear Author. The Book Smugglers. Bookalicious. Inkspot. Reading Matters. Book Lady’s Blog.
I turned to a TV show I really liked (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and began looking to see if there was something in it to use, something original that did not have “books” or “reading” in it.
“I don't want any trouble. I just want be alone and quiet in a room with a chair and a fireplace and a tea cozy. I don't even know what a tea cozy is, but I want one."
True fact: I do indeed know what a tea cozy is. But this pretty much describes how I feel about books: give me that space to be quiet with a good book. To be honest, if I had to, I’d probably have shortened it because it does take so long to say, and to type out, and on business cards.
So. A name, and an idea of what to write about it, and then – well. Writing.Write what or how?I have to say, because a person can do anything they want on their blog, there are no real “rules.” Some people like short posts; I know someone whose entire blog is made up of haiku book reviews. Others are longer. I like to explain why I liked a book, why something worked for me, what got me excited about a book, what questions I have, and, well, that takes time.So, most bloggers are writing personally about the book they read, whether it’s long or short. The fancy term for that is called “reader response.” It’s different from what you find in magazines and newspapers; those tend to be more objective, rather than subjective. But even then, you, as readers, know that how, say, The New York Times talks about books is different than Entertainment Weekly or a short blurb in People. Both Entertainment Weekly and People tend to have shorter write ups, more buzz or quick recommendations or readalikes than anything else.For blogs, it’s about starting and engaging in conversations.
Some blogs are very gushing and enthusiastic about every book. Others are very particular and analytical. Some are critical, both about what works in a book and what doesn’t. Some are snarky, being sarcastic or biting about the books they read – or don’t. That probably sounds just like some people you know – as I said, it’s all about that unique, individual voice. And bloggers are just readers. I, personally, only write about books I finish. If I don’t like a book, if a book doesn’t work for me, I not only put it aside, I don’t write about it. That is in part because of time: I only want to spend time writing about books I like. Other people like to write about books they don’t like. And some people like to write about books that they “DNF”, or “do not finish,” explaining just why they quit the book.
This is one area that shows there are no rules – just what people want to read, want to write, and want to write about. Me, for example? I’ve had books that I DNF, and for some reason or another, return to it later. Maybe, it’s because someone whose opinion I respect really likes the books. So, I’ll give it a second chance. Sometimes…. I still don’t like it. But other times, for whatever reason, my reading shifts and changes and I do like the book, this time around. So, for me, I don’t want a blog post saying I don’t like a book that I never finished because maybe, had I finished, I would have changed my mind and liked the book. See how confusing it is? But others, well, they want to know what books to not read so they want to read about the DNF of other readers.It may take a little bit of playing around, to find the blogs that have a voice that you like – much like it may take a bit to find people who you like talking books about. How this conversation happens, pretty much, is writing about a book and then having people respond in the comments to a book. Or going to someone’s blog and commenting on their blog. It can also be post to post. So, I read a review of Gone Girl somewhere and it makes me want to read it. I can comment, “oh that sounds good.” Now, that is a conversation but a boring one, right? I read the book. I can go back a few weeks and find that post and comment some more. Or, I can also now post my own review of that book. I mention the blog post that made me want to read the book, maybe agree or disagree with something in that original review. It’s part of the continuing conversation, not very straight, but more like a spiderweb of posts and comments.What’s nice about this conversation, as confusing as it may sound like at first, is that it can happen on your own schedule. I don’t have to drop everything and shift my schedule around to read Gone Girl by a certain time; it’s read and reviewed on my schedule. It’s also about the serendipity of book discovery, of reading blog posts and seeing something that makes you think, “hey I want to read that book.” It can even be a bad review, because why someone else doesn’t like a book may be why I do like a book. And, again, it’s all on a schedule that is convenient to me. So, I started the way many people did: wanting to talk about books
But a funny thing happened. To me, and other book bloggers. People read them.Of course, we want people to read the blogs – conversation, right? Isn’t that the point?What surprised me was who was reading. For me, writing about children’s and teen blogs, I expected that librarians, teachers, and parents may read my blog; I thought, maybe, some teens.I didn’t realize that authors would; or that publishers would; that agents and editors would. I was reviewing either my own books or ones I borrowed from the library. In early 2006, less than a year after I started blogging, I got an email from a publisher wanting to know if I would accept copies of their books for review. It wasn’t just me; and it wasn’t just one publisher. Publishers began offering up review copies of books, treating blogs the same way they would treat any other review source: supplying copies of books, including pre-publication copies, to be reviewed with no promise made in return for a positive review or even for any review.Now, six years later, getting review copies isn’t as surprising for blogs. If you look at blogs, many times they will say that the copy being reviewed was provided by the publisher. Blogs put up review policies, saying what types of books they read, what they will accept for review, what their specific policies are for how and when they review books. I’ll have to say it’s a bit interesting – ten years ago, the only people getting these pre-publication copies (also called galleys or advance reading copies) would be magazines or newspapers, or sometimes librarians for purchasing purposes. Now, anyone with a blog may be able to get copies of books. Some of these people are librarians or teachers; but many are readers with jobs that have nothing to do with libraries or schools. I know bloggers who are engineers, actresses, screenwriters, dental technicians, archaeologists – bloggers who are kids, who are teens, who are parents – what they have in common? Being passionate readers, who read and write and share with the people beyond those they know in their own town or school. Why would publishers send review copies, to, well, the reader next door? Why not just rely on what they’ve traditionally done? Ads in papers, or hoping that The New York Times or other papers or magazines will review books? Telling librarians and booksellers about books, so that those librarians and booksellers tell their customers?First, book blogs give publishers something they didn’t have before: direct access to the reader. A publisher reads a blog and knows exactly why someone bought that book, liked that book, recommends that book – or not. Second, publishers realize the value of genuine word of mouth and buzz. They cannot create such buzz, no – because, frankly, it’s like you can’t take a horse to water and make him drink. You cannot give a reader a book and expect that they will like it, love it, or champion it. But, a book cannot be buzzed about if it’s not out among readers, so publishers provide those copies hoping that this book will be “the one.”
So, books. Book blogs are about books, yes. And because they are about books, the people who write them tend to be power readers. Right now, I average between two and three book reviews a week, and I don’t review every book I read. My reviewing tends to be a bit old school: I use post its, have an old fashioned paper journal to take notes, use an actual calendar to schedule what I’ll write about when.Here’s the thing about readers: it’s not just about the books. Oh, it is about the book, but it’s like anything. Once you do something, you want to do more and learn more. With books, that means delving deeper and deeper into books.
So, books. It’s the book. And we talk about the book. But it’s also about the author and how the book came about. One of my favorite blogs, Book Club Girl, is written specifically for book club groups. This is the point where I cross my fingers and hope to go to the actual Book Club Girl webpage to show what things are there. All of this is to give readers, particularly book clubs, a deeper reading experience.At Book Club Girl: Author interviews, including live online interviews that readers can participate in. Book trailers. Excerpts. New books Read alongs
There are also “book challenges.” Book challenges doesn’t meant challenging a book; rather, a group of bloggers decide to “challenge” themselves and their reading habits. It may be about reading books from a certain time period, like fiction and non-fiction books for the Tudor Reading Challenge; or classics; around the world.
I’ve seen challenges from one month (reading spooky books for October) or longer (I saw one for five years! Now that’s planning your reading years!) By doing a challenge together, and blogging about it, it encourages completion. It can be about doing reading you’d always wanted, but put off; or using it as a reason to read outside your normal preferences, push outside the comfort zone.
Talking about books can expand into discussions beyond one book. And it can sometimes require more than one person. So, for example, sites like Book Riot which is a bunch of people contributing to one blog. (And fingers crossed yet again for our internet connection working). Fun, with books! Play lists, what music/songs do you think are best to listen to while reading a book A look at past favorites: Calvin & Hobbes quotes (Calvin: Things are never quite as scary when you’ve got a best friend) What your book pile says about you Bookish pumpkins Trailers made by publishers (note there can also be trailers made by readers)
Beyond fun, there is also book news. Recent book news reported on blogs: National Book Award Finalists, which is fun because there are several weeks before the winner is announced. Just enough time to frantically track down and read each of the five books to see if you can predict the winner.
Looking for quick news and updates with a bit of an attitude? Blog of a Bookslut, connected to the Bookslut website. So the blog has short quick posts about book news; the website itself has in depth articles and reviews.
If you have a particular area you like, guaranteed, there will be a blog for that. For example, one of my favorites is by two historical fiction author: Two Nerdy History Girls. There are both plenty of links to information, and posts that tend to focus on the daily life of people in the past. This post is about the daily clothing that people wore in Colonial times, illustrated by someone from Historic Williamsburg
Following links can lead to fascinating information, such as this one about the Foundling Asylum of New York, founded in 1869 which includes the notes that were left by the women leaving children at the Asylum.
If you’re inspired by this, but still not quite sure about the time or commitment to blog, one way to test out the waters is through sites like GoodReads. Again, fingers crossed for the Internet and this time for my passwords working. At GoodReads, you can set up an account to track what you read; rate your books; review them; and talk about those books with your friends. Authors sometimes contribute, also. Bookshelves Rating books Friends Discussions
People who talk to each other online, with blogs and GoodReads and other sites, then want to meet in real life. They’ve discovered they have a lot in common, but it just so happens that they live in different towns, states, countries. Book bloggers don’t do anything small: so they’ve scheduled conferences. The children’s and young adult book bloggers have been having an annual conference for about six years now, made up of bloggers, readers, and authors. A more general book blogger conference is now part of the official activities connected to Book Expo America. BEA is a huge publishing event, and the inclusion of bloggers show that the book selling industry values these public “super readers
I’ve sometimes heard people talk about how nobody reads anymore.I know, here I am in front of a room full of readers.I laugh at that and wonder who these people know. Because here are you, readers. And there is also, online, a vibrant, growing community of readers. And the more people read, the more they talk about what they read, the more they share – the more books they read. And the more deeply they read those books. The Internet isn’t killing reading; it’s just giving people more places to read and more places to meet other readers.
Book discussion leader’s tea
Book Discussion Leader’s Tea2012 Ocean County Library Reader’s Services Committee October 27, 2012
I dont want any trouble. I just want bealone and quiet in a room with a chairand a fireplace and a tea cozy. I donteven know what a tea cozy is, but I wantone. www.buffyguide.com/episodes/anne.shtml#ixzz2AGmJNdxZ