Sunshine Blogger Award

At some point in my blogging career, it felt like everyone was nominating me for a Sunshine Blogger Award. Not really knowing what it was, I dismissed requests to participate. I asked myself, “If this is an award anyone can get, what does it reward?” It’s been 5.5 years since Grab the Lapels started, and I’ve realized that the award is mainly to recognize friends whom you want to know more about. Isn’t that sweet — but terrible that it took me almost 6 years to realize? Thanks to Shell at Books By the Cup for helping me realize that it’s worth it to celebrate friends we make on the internet and say “thank you” for the work they put into their e-space.

Questions from Shell:

What’s the best book you’ve read in the last 6 months and why? I had a rough reading year that included a lot of stinkers. Looking at my list, about four books actually were “good.” I choose Joe Jones by Anne Lamott. I loved it because the characters were so realistic and flawed in real ways. I don’t mean this generically, like when we say a woman likes to eat pizza and farts, thus she is so “real” and “flawed.” I also did some memorable voices, while I read this book aloud to my husband.

What’s the worst book you read and why? I’ll confine this one to the last 6 months as well. No Bed of Roses, the autobiography by Joan Fontaine, really bummed me out. She was a perpetual victim over practically nothing, she left her children behind constantly, and skipped over parts readers really wanted, such as what it was like to film Rebecca with Laurence Olivier and Alfred Hitchcock, but spent pages on driving in cars and name dropping A-list celebs. I had a wicked crush on her as an actress, and I’m still trying to forget this autobiography.

What book have you read recently that’s outside of your comfort zone? I started reading memoirs and journalism essay collections in the last year to better familiarize myself with countries I know nothing about. My comfort zone includes places I know and names I can pronounce, so I had to throw comfort out the window. First, They Killed My Father by Loung Ung was a terrifically descriptive and graphic account of families from Cambodia being tortured by the Khmer Rouge. I listened to the audiobook, and the narrator nearly destroyed me.

What has blogging taught you about yourself and others? A lesson that I learned in college from a new friend was really emphasized when I started blogging. She said, “Just because I don’t have any friends doesn’t mean I want just any friends.” How does this translate into blogging? I learned that lots of people will simply leave a “like” on a blog post but never read it — in the hopes that you’ll follow and read their blog. So, I got rid of my like button. Some bloggers confess to not actually reading posts, but leaving “Nice review!” in the comments to show that they appreciate the blogger worked on a post. I appreciate the sentiment, but I don’t need that. I tend to cull my blog friends quite often because “just because I don’t have any friends doesn’t mean I want just any friends.”

What format do you read the most in? (audiobook, e-reader, physical copy)? These days, I’m purchasing more e-books so I don’t have to get rid of them when I’m done (they take up no space), but I think it’s still largely paperbacks. If I read a paperback book and I don’t think I’ll read it again, or it didn’t stick with me in a special way, I get rid of it.

Why is reading an important part of your life? This ties into a much larger concept that asks, “What is living?” I don’t mean it in a religious way, like “What is our purpose?” but more like how are we meant to spend our time alive. It’s take me years to realize there are categories: struggling to live, making a living, and feeling alive. Feeling alive requires us to seek out something that makes us feel a BIG emotion. Some bungee jump. Others travel. Theatre folks go to plays. I read books.

How many unread books do you have? 209 — thanks, spreadsheet!

What book would you re-read every year (if you like to re-read)? I have read The Autobiography of Malcolm X probably a dozen times, if not more. It’s always good to re-read it to remind myself of this man whose school of thought was not popular in the U.S., but shaped the generations after him, including the Black Panthers and black power and black is beautiful movements.

What is the most memorable bookstore or library you’ve been to? This isn’t blow-your-skirt-up amazing, but I find it memorable that my first library, the public library in my home town, had NO GUM signs. Who comes to the library to stick gum in it? Is gum still an issue? 25 years later and I can still see that sign. I also remember going with my Girl Scout Troop to get my first library card at that location.

What’s your favorite genre? I tend to not read genre fiction, which feels silly to say because I do love Mercedes Lackey’s fantasy novels. Any book that makes me feel like I’m gonna have a heart attack before I get to the end, or I get to the end and then I feel like I’m gonna have a heart attack because it’s over, is my favorite kind of book. I also made up a genre called “girls gone wild” that I love and am happy to talk about more if anyone’s interested.

What advice would you give to a new blogger to improve conversation and engagement? The answer to this is so easy. You have to leave meaningful comments on other people’s blogs. If you don’t have anything to say based on their review, write something that their blog post reminded you of — maybe something you read or saw or heard recently. You stop commenting, then they stop visiting and commenting on your blog.

If you’re thinking, “But I don’t have that much time!” then there are two things to consider: 1) maybe you should have a Goodreads account instead of a blog, and 2) cull the number of people you follow down to those who make you feel like this time-consuming endeavor is worth it. Dump the “like for like” folks and those who only stop by once every 2 months but are churning out their own posts every other day. They have time, but they’re choosing themselves over others.

That’s all I have time for, so I’m going to leave it at that!

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34 comments

  1. Within the past year I’ve also found memoirs to be a great way of learning more about unfamiliar places, time periods, issues, etc. Personal narrative helps make the new info more memorable and accessible, I guess. Interesting to learn more about your reading/blogging habits!

    • Thanks, Michael! And I agree about memoir. When I was in school I used to think I couldn’t learn dates. I get dyslexic with numbers. But then I realized that dyslexia doesn’t prevent you from learning numbers, but from getting them in the right order. If I can attach a narrative to the numbers, I can hold the numbers in my head and “see” them, which makes it easier to remember the dates.

    • I’ve mentioned that I spent one full weekend taking all my books off the shelves and handling/logging each one into a spreadsheet. I also marked whether it was read or not. Then I did the same with all my digital books. Now I have this great data that I can utilize. Answering Shell’s question was quite easy thanks to the work I did that one weekend.

  2. Congrats on 5.5 year of blogging! I think I’ve been blogging for about that long, but I didn’t take it seriously until about a year and a half ago. I wish I’d done more earlier, because I’ve found some great bookish friends since then!

    The ‘no gum’ sign in the library cracked me up. Was gum such a big problem for them?

    • I don’t know how it is now, but when I was a kid, gum was like the biggest sin. We were still in the era of thinking it’s funny to put gum on chairs and under desks. I don’t really see it anymore, as putting gum in random places seems universally acknowledged as a dick move.

  3. Hey Sunshine, I’m glad we’re friends, it’s been an interesting few years, and now we’re getting (slowly!) to meet Nick too who used to be just a presence behind his distinctive like button. There was a question up there, What has blogging taught you? Milly, my on off partner these last 40 years, says I not only express myself better, but I’m becoming a nicer person (I think she means less grumpy).

    • HA! Yes, I forgot about Nick’s piratey avatar. He reads every post I write, but has a strict “rarely ever comment” rule with the internet, be it Reddit or Facebook or Grab the Lapels. I’m glad Milly thinks you are less grumpy. I 100% believe in the power of reading to fill us with empathy and increase our patience with others. I mean, it falters sometimes, but they we have patience in reserves. Or, if we run out of patience, it’s back to the books! I’ve noticed that you’re thinking outside yourself when you communicate. I’ve struggled with some of your blog posts because it’s almost like you wrote them for yourself, as if the readers would all know what you meant. You’re getting clearer and clearer–more aware of your audience.

  4. I’m so glad you *finally* got the reason why you were nominated. I’ve learned a lot from chatting with you. But thanks for taking the time to answer the questions for me! I’ve learned more about you and you’ve shared some solid advice.

    About your re-read book, Malcom X is a book I want to immerse myself in so I’m looking forward to reading and discussing it!

    Your spreadsheet!! I worked on mine and let’s just say I have a way to go. 🙈

    • LOL, like I said, it took me a whole weekend. That, and I did a Marie Kondo sort of thing without realizing it: I pulled every book I own and put it on the floor. That way, when I picked up the book I logged it into the spreadsheet. Otherwise, if you leave them on the shelf, you may get confused. I did the same thing with my e-books (though you can’t put them on the floor, of course). Then you can sort your spreadsheet by author, title, date published, read/tbr — whatever data you included! As I put my physical books back on the shelf, I also changed how I stored them. I used to try and shelve by author, but now I do novels, short story collections, poetry/plays/novellas, and nonfiction.

  5. Interesting post. Sadly the like for like stuff isn’t just confined to blogging but pretty much everything online – from 500 px to online karaoke, YouTube to twitter. Instagram to forum posts. I’m new to this but quickly worked it out. However, I sense a real community here too that is engaging and kind and supportive.

    • Yes! One thing I keep in mind is something comedian Bo Burnham, age 28 said: the current generation is the “performance generation.” They’ve had their whole lives documented and put online for approval, so is it any wonder they measure their self-worth in likes? I remember creating the first e-mail address that was ever mine. And my first chat account. And I put my first Facebook picture up. I’m acutely aware that social media encourages people older than me to join in the performance generation. Right now, there is a thing on Facebook encouraging people to share a picture of them today and ten years ago. I want to know why? If you’ve aged well, you get likes. If you looked better ten years ago, you feel bad about your present self based only on your body. I believe the “like for like” folks all fall into the performance generation mindset. Thanks so much for stopping by Grab the Lapels!

  6. I’m so glad I learned something new about you Melanie.

    I 100% agree with your statement that quality of friends is much more important than quantity. I would rather have one meaningful conversation rather than 100 ‘nice review’ only comments. I don’t follow that many blogs purely because I don’t have time for frequent blog hopping and commenting. But those blog I am choosing to follow are always the ones, where I look forward to engaging in conversations and the exchange of ideas. Great advice from your end for sure!

    And YES YES YES to ‘Feeling alive requires us to seek out something that makes us feel a BIG emotion’ – it’s so beautifully written. I love how you connected it with your reading experience, that made me really happy! 🙂

    • Thanks, Vera! I’m not sure why it’s taken me so long to figure out that we want to experience big emotions to prove all the other hard stuff in life is worth it. Maybe because I went through fiction writing programs that focus on experimental fiction. Instead of writing a story full of emotions, we’re constantly looking at how to play with form and content.

  7. Ok I really like your ‘girls gone wild’ genre and I hope to somehow use it in the future-I will of course credit you for it! I’m sorry you had such a rough few months of reading, that really blows. But, at least when you read a really good book, you’ll be EXTRA excited about it!

  8. I really appreciate your advice to bloggers. I so many times spend HOURS going through blogs I follow only to get one comment from someone in return, so I sort of gave up. It took me all of six months to figure it out, I’m trying to be better at commenting because I value comments so much myself. I just get so involved in books, kid, cats, a fiancee who can’t do things for himself…ahh my life is such a bore.

    • To be honest, one thing that has kept me from really committing to following your blog is that when I first started following you, you posted every single day, sometimes more than once per day. I felt a bit overwhelmed and didn’t want to half commit to your work.

  9. I am terrible at blog awards/nominations. I think they are really sweet and I always appreciate it when bloggers mention me, but trying to keep up with them is very difficult. I won’t mention the number of tags I have in my drafts that I haven’t gotten to. I wish I could make the transition to ebooks, but there’s just something about reading on my tablet that stresses me out. Ironically, I read ebooks faster than physical books and yet…

    • The nominations stressed me out when I started blogging. I just didn’t get it. It IS time consuming, too. This is why I skip so many posts that I think are cool: Top-Ten Tuesday, Sunday wrap-ups, etc. I’ve gotten used to reading ebooks. I don’t have a Kindle, I have the Kindle app on my phone. I catch myself pulling out my phone and reading when I shouldn’t be, lol.

  10. I had a good laugh over your NO GUM sign memory. As far as I know, gum isn’t an issue at our library.

    I love that… “Just because I don’t have friends doesn’t mean I want just any friends”.

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