Maureen’s manifesto and my consumption

Hi there.  Via Gwenda, I found my way to Maureen’s manifesto.  Do read the post itself but I quote the most important part below.

The internet is made of people. People matter. This includes you. Stop trying to sell everything about yourself to everyone. Don’t just hammer away and repeat and talk at people—talk TO people. It’s organic. Make stuff for the internet that matters to you, even if it seems stupid. Do it because it’s good and feels important. Put up more cat pictures. Make more songs. Show your doodles. Give things away and take things that are free. Look at what other people are doing, not to compete, imitate, or compare . . . but because you enjoy looking at the things other people make. Don’t shove yourself into that tiny, airless box called a brand—tiny, airless boxes are for trinkets and dead people.

In the comments, kathleen duey said:
I learned how to de-seed pomegranites on YouTube today. Thanks, guy from Arizona who put it up. I have wrestled with pomegranites all my life and now I won’t. I really, really appreciate it.

And that got me thinking about the “mission” of lectitans.  I started this as a way to share my feelings about books I read.  I have lots of blogs other places – kimberlyhirsh.com is my online business card as it were and I use that as a blog on occasion, kibathediva.net has been most recently a craft blog which I’m not calling a lifestyle blog and focusing on the “new domesticity,” mimula is about my adventures in theatre, both as performer and audience member (performer most recently), and then Whedoncraft (not udpated for nearly a year – I need to get on that, seriously) is for pointing readers to things other people make when they’re inspired by Joss Whedon.

I have a lot of times when I get overwhelmed thinking about updating one or the other of these, or I think of something but am not sure where to put it.  I think I’ve found a new grounding, sort of.  Work/school stuff will go at kimberlyhirsh.com; kibathediva.net will be all about anything I produce (cupcakes, hats, a web series?), and lectitans will be about what media I consume.

The subtitle for lectitans is “reading eagerly and often,” but we use “read” to mean things other than books.  So I’ll be going with that interpretation of the word.  My next post will be all about what I’ve been reading lately.  I want to thank the people who put free things on the internet, where I can then learn from them.

I missed something big.

So apparently on my birthday, a little over a week ago, the Kidlitosphere exploded with people having identity crises and struggling to keep up with their blogs.  Jen Robinson summed it up nicely in this post, and then added her own thoughts on the matter here

It’s heavy stuff.  I have a personal, friends only LiveJournal, a craft/design blog, this blog, and I recently added a new blog to chronicle my own personal Happiness Project.  I have tried in the past to give myself schedules, so that I will post more regularly, because I’d like to really develop an audience.  I want to keep people coming back to my blogs, and when I have a month-long hiatus like I just did, that doesn’t really happen.  At the same time, there’s almost always a lot going on in my life.  I have a very demanding job in terms of energy if not always time.  (I work rather efficiently, so I often leave school before other teachers do.  I feel guilty, leaving only half an hour after our official off-the-clock time.)  Writing is a creative task.  Other blogs are updated frequently, and I like to read them, but I get overwhelmed.  And so with each of the blogs I write, I have to keep my mission for that particular blog in mind.

Here, the mission is to record my reactions to books, and book-related things.  When I started the blog, I reviewed every book I read, and focused on YA.  Now, I’m realizing that no one is asking me to do that except myself.  So I will post reviews here only of particularly noteworthy books, or publish reviews over at The Edge of the Forest when I’ve agreed to do that.  I’ll keep any commitments I make to things like the blog tours, and I’ll post responses to interesting things I see in my reading.  And anything else book-related that comes to my attention.

And that’s it.  That will be all.  And that way, this will stay fun for me.

Here’s the thing that keeps me from worrying I’ll lose readers: aggregators.  Things like Google Reader, or the LJ friends page with a feed on it.  If people want to read me, they can subscribe.  Then, when I have a month-long gap, they won’t miss a thing.

New Blog: Library Pendragon

I’m plugging it everywhere today: my friend Joanna’s new blog, Library Pendragon.  Joanna is a media specialist (which always reads to my mind as “school librarian” but I know they do much more than just deal with books) and is going to write about organizing your home and/or library.  She has already revolutionized my life with her spice storage tips, and I’m delighted to say as well that she has put up a summer reading post and recommended to many adults who probably wouldn’t see them otherwise a list of notable children’s and YA novels.  (You’ve probably read them all, but I think it’s exciting that she’s posting about them anyway.)

Theatre blog!

Theme Days

As I mentioned in my earlier post, I’m hoping to institute a theme for just about every day of the week here at

 . 

Let me show you what the week looks like so far:
Sunday – Seven on Sunday (Thanks, 7-Imp!)
Monday – Misdirection Monday
Tuesday – empty
Wednesday – empty
Thursday – Booking Through Thursday
Friday – Poetry Friday
Saturday – Weekend Wonderings (Remember those?)

Any suggestions for Tuesday or Wednesday?  Alliteration is always fun.  I want to keep reviews a possibility for just about any day, but until I find themes for Tuesday and Wednesday I’ll try and be sure to post reviews on those days.

 

 

Exciting Blog Discovery!

A Fuse #8 Production is an awesome blog.  I’ve known this for a while.  Just today, I read a recnt post of Betsy’s that pointed me to my new favorite blog:

The Longstockings!  At The Longstockings, eight writers in striped socks talk about all kinds of exciting things.  I’ve not read any of their books, but the blog has me thrilled and wanting to run out and pick them up.  My TBR piles, if combined, would probably be as tall as I am, so it’ll have to wait.

On Reviewing

One of the reasons I decided to join the kidlitosphere was the fact that it is so full of conversation-starters. Today I had far too many tabs opened in my browser window, taken from links from other blogs’ entries. What should I write about? A theme emerged, and it’s one that has touched me in more aspects of my life than just reading:

Reviewing.

So the questions driving this conversation (see posts from Meg Rosoff, Kelly at Big A little a, Roger Sutton, Wendy Betts, and fusenumber8) are as follows:

To whom does the reviewer have responsibility?
Is it more awkward to write a negative review when there’s a likelihood of you running into the author?
Does writing only positive reviews violate a critic’s integrity?
Is the author-critic relationship necessarily adversarial?

I first encountered critics when I was 15 and working in community theatre. I received what I took to be a positive review. I thought, “I’m great! Reviews are cool! Critics love me! Yay!” When I was 17, a local theatre critic began to write about my school’s competition play. He hung around our rehearsals a lot and I, in awe of him, became a bit of a hanger-on myself. Over time we formed a real friendship, and I began to think of this critic as my ally. We lost touch for various reasons, but I ran into him again recently. I told him about my current production, and we conversed for a bit about the concept, and the particular strengths of the show’s director.

I made the mistake of mentioning this conversation within earshot of the director himself. I was telling a friend “So I ran into Theatre Critic the other day, and told him about the show…” A grimace came over the director’s face. I had forgotten that critics are The Enemy. We didn’t have any critics opening weekend, sadly. Even a bad review is press, you know.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking critic is the ideal job. You get to consume your media of choice and then write about it. How cool is that? Tester seemed like a cool job, too. So when I was in college, I got a job as a Video Game Tester. I thought this was bound to be exciting – I would get paid to play video games! Woohoo! The job description involved helping a marketing company decide which games to champion. It was quite the opposite. Being a Video Game Tester was the most boring job I’ve ever had, and probably the closest to being a professional critic that I’ll ever come. Whatever they threw my way, I had to play, and it was my responsibility to then evaluate the game honestly. How dull!

What I wanted to do, and what I’ve wanted to do each time I’ve considered a career as a critic, be it theatre, video game, or book, is share things I like with other people. That is not, however, what it actually means to be a critic. Critics have a responsibility to two groups: their readers and their employers. Both of these groups require critics give honest reviews, good or bad, and include the bad along with the good. That’s why I’m a blogger. As a blogger, I pick which books I will review. I still value honesty: I won’t write a good review of a bad book. But I’m not above sins of omission. I probably won’t write a review of a bad book at all. In fact, if the book hasn’t gripped me after 100 pages or so, I’ll just set it aside. I don’t think it would be fair to review a book I haven’t finished reading, and I don’t finish reading books that I don’t like. I don’t think this violates my integrity as a blogger, but if I were hired by a publication to review things and left some stuff out that would definitely be a problem.

Lastly, I like to think that the author-critic relationship doesn’t have to be adversarial. A critic can champion the works of someone who might be little-known for any number of reasons. I think this is when criticism is at its best: here’s something good, and here’s why. Still, it is important for professional critics to warn people away from things that aren’t so good; that makes them the author’s enemy.

The solution, of course, is to be a brilliant author.

Writing Blogs

This is the second part of a two-part response to Bookseller Chick’s excellent post Writer as Blogger, Blogger as Writer. For the first part, see my post Reading Blogs.

Next Question:

What do you expect from your own blogging?

I expect from my own blogging the same things I expect from others: good writing, interesting content, and good design. Of these three, interesting content gives me the most trouble.

The first problem is that I find myself infinitely interesting. I have to be careful in my blogging not to ramble on at length about things so narrow in scope they interest only me. It’s that whole “Who drives content?” question. In my blogs, I do. Too much, if I want to keep an audience. So that’s something I’m working to improve. Posts like this one, which are parts of larger conversations, are a strong step in that direction.

The other issue I have with content is updating regularly but not too frequently. When I am in the midst of my obsession with a topic, I’ll post to that blog daily or several times a day. As obsession fades, I post less and less frequently, eventually stopping altogether. This is what happened with my crochet blog, my health and fitness blog, my video game blog, my fashion blog, and my publicly visible personal blog. My friends-only personal livejournal is very rarely neglected: my fascination with my self hasn’t faded yet.

Which brings us to the last question:

Why do you blog?

I started lectitans first because slayground (Little Willow of Bildungsroman fame) is a rockstar. She was promoting readergirlz, and I latched on to the notion immediately. In order to be a part of that larger community, I wanted a place to keep track of my own musings on reading. And so we have lectitans.

I then started paying attention to the blogs linked from readergirlz, and the larger conversations about books in which I saw slayground participating. I thought, “These are my people. I want to be a part of that.” So I am reading other book blogs, and engaging in conversation with other book bloggers. Yes, folks, it’s all about community.

I chose LiveJournal as my publishing platform because it is proven as a platform I’ll use consistently. My personal journal is on LiveJournal, and I’ve been updating it nearly daily for five years. Quite a few friends came over from my personal journal, giving me a built in audience. I also enjoy using the LiveJournal friends page as an RSS aggregator, but wanted a separate ID to use for my book-related reads.

I’m not concerned about running out of content for lectitans. Reading is an obsession I’ve had for twenty two years. I’m excited to be finding new book friends, both real in the form of other bloggers and imagined in the form of characters I wouldn’t be aware of without reading other blogs. I look forward to a long and exciting career as a book blogger.

Reading Blogs

This is the first part of a two-part response to Bookseller Chick’s excellent post, Writer as Blogger, Blogger as Writer. For the second part, see my post Writing Blogs.

Let’s begin with two questions:

What kind of content do you expect from your writers who blog? How about from the bloggers who aren’t (and never will be) “professional” writers?

I look for the same things from all bloggers, whether or not they are professional writers.

Good Writing. I’m looking for two things here: a uniqueness of voice and a strength of style. I want my bloggers to sound like themselves: not like someone else and not like robots or news reporters. At the same time, it’s important to me that they express themselves clearly and concisely. Word choice is key. If a writer uses one word and it’s clear she needed another, she’s lost me. I don’t like poetic prose and I always prefer economy of phrase, though not to the exclusion of the aforementioned uniqueness.

Interesting Content. This, too, has multiple parts. A blogger’s content must be of distinct interest to me to keep me coming back. My interests vary, though I tend to focus on one at a time. I’ve followed blogs centered on writing, health and fitness, crochet, video games and fashion, as well as personal blogs. I go back to each category now and again. I’ve strayed away from personal blogs of anyone I don’t personally know because I rarely find the mundanities of a stranger’s life interesting. I would go back to any well-written blog with glee. If opinions and analysis take precedence over lists of daily events, I will stick with a personal blog. In addition to being tied to my interests the content should be original in some way: completely original, reviews, or annotated links. Linking without comment or re-posting of stories found elsewhere quickly turns me off. Lastly, for content to be interesting it should be updated regularly. Less than once a week and I start to lose interest; more than three or four times a day and I get overwhelmed.

Good Design. I’m a sucker for a pretty page. I don’t care who designed it or if it’s a stock design like my own here at lectitans as long as it’s attractive.

On to the next question:

Who drives content: blogger or reader?

Yes. The best blogs are conversations. I don’t want to read a blog where the blogger writes only what she thinks her readers want without putting any of herself into it. That kind of writing is dishonest and uninteresting. Still, I don’t care to read a lot of navel-gazing. A blogger should be aware of her audience and keep them in mind without giving herself over to them completely. An ideal blog post expresses an opinion, presents information, or provides a recommendation and then asks, “What do you think?” This is why blogs didn’t really flourish until comments became a common feature. The sense of community is very important both to individual blogs and to blogging as a mode of publication.

Continue to part two, Writing Blogs.