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!