For our five year blogoversary, Kelly and I thought it would be fun to interview each other about reading, blogging, and our journey together these past years. She interviewed me yesterday, and today I put her on the hot seat for a few questions. We’re also giving away fourteen books – if you haven’t entered to win yet, go forth and do so.
Kimberly: How do you think your blogging style has evolved over the past five years?
Kelly: I think I’ve become a lot bolder and more willing to write about anything that interests me. I think we both have been honest and frank in our reviewing style since the beginning, but I know in the last couple of years, I’ve found myself not so much less interested in writing reviews, but more interested in writing about books in new and different ways. I like talking about big topics and I think when I started blogging, that wasn’t something I felt as confident about doing.
I’m more willing, too, to put posts together that are more about jumpstarting discussions than having them be whole and complete discussions themselves. I forget sometimes the most interesting posts are the ones that raise questions, rather than attempt to answer them.
How do you think blogging about books and kidlit has changed over the past five years?
I talked about this a little bit over at Adele’s blog a couple of months ago. Maybe the biggest thing in the last five years has been the growth of blogging — but I also think a lot of that growth in blogging has become a growth in really becoming an arm of the publicity of new books.
A number of really powerful blog voices I got to know when we started Stacked aren’t doing it anymore. Many have stopped because of other commitments, but others have stopped because being critical and having that platform has conflicted with other things (notably, being published themselves!).
The Kidlitosphere is still going strong, but it’s definitely quieted down. It’s still an excellent community, but I think with other commitments in everyone’s lives, things have just changed a bit. There are certainly still amazing, long-time, well-respected bloggers out there. I think maybe now, five years after we started this, the tremendous growth in blogging about books and kidlit has made it harder for people to find their niche in the same way they did five, seven, or ten years ago.
Has blogging changed your reading style? If so, in what way?
Yes. But not necessarily because I’ve become more critical or because I’m now looking for certain things when I read. The biggest change in my reading style is that now that I’ve been thinking and reading so critically for five years, I have a stronger sense of when a book is going to be a book for me. I have a strong sense of when a book’s going to hit all the right notes for me as a reader, and that’s pretty neat.
What have been some unexpected benefits of blogging?
My writing has become stronger, clearer, and more thoughtful. I’ve always been a strong writer — comes with writing and thinking about writing since the time I could write — but blogging involves writing for an audience, so I have to be a lot more conscious of what I’m saying and how I am saying it.
Beyond the writing, I’ve met some of my best friends blogging. When I think about these last five years and the people who have had a tremendous impact on my life, nearly every one of them I met through blogging in some capacity.
I think you and I have gotten to know each other very well, when we didn’t in grad school, too.
I guess I should mention an unexpected benefit has been getting a job, too. That’s so new and fresh that I haven’t quite wrapped my head around it yet.
What is most frustrating or challenging about blogging?
It’s the most practical thing: I hate formatting posts. I don’t mind writing or rewriting or reworking words until they sing. But I hate when I have to resize, reshape, and fix images, alignments, weird font issues, and so forth.
Another thing that can be frustrating is when something you write is something you think is great and should really ‘hit,’ and it just doesn’t. What can you do though except keep writing?
Which posts were the most fun to write and why?
I find writing every post fun. I think we talked about a long time ago that when blogging wasn’t fun anymore, we wouldn’t do it. So I always remember it’s supposed to be fun, and with that in mind,
Of regular posts I write, I think the cover change posts are the most fun to write, as well as the cover trend posts. I love looking and talking about the visual representations of books because that’s such an interesting topic and it’s so subjective.
Which two or three posts would you consider your “greatest hits” and why?
I wrote two posts last June that really stood out to me: the post about girls and representation of girls in fiction, as well as the post about girls and their sexuality. Both really homed in on a topic I’d been thinking about — girls and girl reading — and I didn’t know there were so many other readers who’d been thinking about these issues because this is a topic that doesn’t GET talked about in the same way boys and boy reading do.
I’m also partial to my posts on getting beyond the easy reach with reader’s advisory, as well as what I’ve written about how reductive YA seems to have become.
You seem to have really found your voice in support of high-quality, contemporary, realistic books for teens, particularly those that are often overlooked. What draws you to these kinds of stories, and why are they so important to highlight and advocate for?
These have been the books I’ve always read. I picked up Speak in high school, as well as Perks of Being a Wallflower and Cut. I read more realistic fiction as I went on through college and after, into grad school. It’s a genre I am just drawn to because it’s such a limiting genre — you can’t magic your way out of anything. Every problem has to have a solution that’s plausible.
Unlike many readers, I’m not in realistic fiction for ‘relatability.’ I don’t care if I relate to a character or not. I want to be compelled by them and their stories, and I want to see how they use the limited resources in their world to find their way out of the problem — if
they’re even able to do that. Some of the most satisfying realistic
stories don’t solve all the problems, which is just how the real world
Realistic fiction is important to highlight and advocate because at this point, if it isn’t the next book you can hand to a fan of John Green or Rainbow Rowell, it’s not going to see much marketing or publicity. And frankly, even the books being sold that way aren’t either; they’re instead being reduced to a kind of story which also reduces readers to types of readers. Realistic fiction is rich and complex. I think it’s important to talk about those complexities and richnesses because those reflect the realities of today’s teens and YA readers (teens or not!).
What’s the strangest, most bizarre thing that’s ever happened in your blogging career?
I went to a small publisher dinner at ALA, and I picked up a copy of Veronica Roth’s Insurgent. I didn’t realize she was at the dinner but when I found out she was, I wanted to get her to sign the book for me so I could give it away to one of my teens.
I introduced myself to her, and she knew who I was. That was pretty strange and neat all at once.
If you want bizarre, maybe it was the time someone emailed to tell us that our review policy was wrong, and they proceeded to send a detailed critique of why our review policy was so wrong. Guess it’s only fair that bloggers have their own policies evaluated for them?
Any advice for someone looking to start blogging?
Keep writing, keep reading, and keep working. You’ll find your voice and your passions and your community. It’s not about hits nor about recognition. It’s always about what blogging brings to you on a personal level.
For me, it’s a necessary part of unpacking what I’m thinking and reading.