Four Years of Reading, Writing, and Me
Sooooo it's my blogiversary, and in true blogger form, I am writing this post the night before. I've been thinking about how to celebrate or what to say for a month, ever since Google sent me the email telling me that I once again have to pay to renew my domain name.
I've been a blogger for four years now. That feels surreal to say. I started this blog in 8th grade as a 13-year-old who had just picked up her first YA book ever (still thoroughly intimidated by that section of the library because I didn't feel teen enough. Now I'm grappling with suddenly not feeling adult enough). I'm writing this close to turning 18, taking Zoom college courses from my bedroom. The me that started this blog would think you were lying if you told her about me today. And yes, the math between my grade levels is weird because I've blogged through a whirlwind 2 years of online high school that ran through weekends, summers, and holidays and a gap year working at my local bookstore. I've written 4 YA books in that span of time and learned about querying through the stories of how my favorite authors got started. Being a member of the book community has changed me in an infinite number of ways, and four years in, I wanted to take a second to truly reflect on that. Then, at the end, @dearliterature on Instagram had a couple questions for me to answer, so a mini Q&A will finish up the post.
I don't even know how to begin to write about all the ways book blogging has changed my life. I definitely know I would not be the same person I am today without it. What I've learned, the friends I've made, and the support I've gotten from this platform has truly healed me. It gave me my self-esteem back after years and years of bullying. It made me realize I had a voice, and people might want to listen to what I had to say. Books got me through years of sitting alone on the playground and alone at lunch, and they eventually became a vessel that delivered me a community. Even when I was physically alone, I always had a world bursting with kind, supportive people waiting in my phone and computer. Now, other bloggers and even authors I look up to, cheer me on as I plod along on my writing journey. They support me in a way I've never experienced before, and they've watched me grow up. All of you have.
If you'd asked me four years ago if I'd still be blogging now, I would have defiantly told you I absolutely would. Up to that point, I'd had a bit of a reputation for quitting things. Gymnastics, painting classes, dance. I would've absolutely quit school had that been an option (hence why I was ahead of the trend on the whole online school thing). When I told my mom I wanted to start a blog as I sat at home during Spring Break, she said "sure" with that knowing, "this'll last a week", tone. It wasn't an unfair assumption. But, instead, I only got more devoted. I created a posting schedule. I started treating it like a full time job, and I gave it that many hours. I became obsessed with building the platform. It was an escape. It was a world where I could craft myself from scratch and start over. It was a world where I could find other teens and adults that would take me seriously for the work I could produce instead of my age. All I ever wantd was to be 18, to be an adult, to be taken seriously. It's probably why I feel so weird now that I'm finally close to that milestone. Letting my work speak first and foremost changed my life. That's probably the reason I'm still here now.
A lot has changed since I first started blogging. I've learned so much about social media and content creation. I've learned to take better, more inventive photos of books. I've learned how to streamline my posts and write listicles and how to promote them. I finally have the lived experience to back up the hours of reading I did at 13 about "how to start a blog" and "how to promote your blog posts". I hadn't ever even read a book blog when I decided to start mine. My parents didn't have any clue what blogging was either. It's always been my own space to figure out piece by piece.
Even as my posts have evolved and changed, my some things have stayed completely the same. I still use my local library all the time. If we hadn't moved to a town with an incredible library and better than average YA section, I don't know if I would've ever started blogging. If that librarian hadn't invited me into the YA section, who knows how long I would've felt like those books were "too old for me" even though I'd already read literally every middle grade book I could find. I brought home a giant stack of books to entertain me over break and decided to give it a try.
This blog only exists because I read All The Bright Places, cried, and then needed to tell everyone about it. It was as simple as the fact that I'd never loved a book so intensely and so immediately, and everyone in the world needed to know about it. That's how important local libraries are. I had to get all my thoughts out, even if there was no one at the end of the line. And, still, it often feels like there's no one listening and I'm screaming my weird thoughts into the void. Blogging is such a strange platform because commenting isn't as much of a thing anymore, and I see readers as numbers, but I don't know what you thought, if you liked what I wrote. That's why I love having social media for the blog too. It becomes more of a conversation. Even four years later, I don't know why you're here or why you're reading this, but I'm eternally grateful that you are.
On to the coolest parts about blogging- the parts I couldn't have fathomed 4 years ago. This is my 530th post. I have a review of every single book I've read in the last four years (except the boring ones for school), which is an amazing archive of the weird rumination of my brain and how I've evolved. I can go back and read my immediate thoughts on books that became my favorites (though I almost never read old reviews). I have a map of myself through the books that I loved. Reading YA has made me a better person. It's broadened my worldview so much farther than my town. For as much as it's taught me about different places and people, I've learned so much more about myself through them. I am so so lucky for that. The blog has given me a platform to talk about mental health and mental illness, LGBTQ rights and so many other important issues that need highlighted. I've gotten to champion books I believe in. Authors who I've supported since their debuts know my name. They ask how I'm doing, comment on my bookshelves, and cheered with me when I got into college. And I scream about their books incessantly and put them on every list and wonder if I'm annoying them with how often I talk about their books because I just love them that much. It's beyond surreal that my heroes are people who know me. I appreciate how tightly knit the book community is so so much.
Because of this blog, I get to interview authors who've written the books I just can't stop thinking about, which is amazing. The bulk of the books I read are ARCs I've requested or that publishers have pitched me. I never fathomed that would happen. And it's allowed me to read brand new books at a ridiculous pace because, before blogging, I had been known to finish reading entire library shelves. Even though bloggers should totally get paid for all the work we do (and I will talk about that issue until forever but at another time), it's allowed me to constantly read new releases in a quantity I could never afford and that would exhaust my library request limit. It's not lost on me how amazing that is, and in my lowest blogging moments when I thought about quitting, it was this epic fountain of books and my love for the art that always drew me back in.
Blogging has also given me a window into publishing I would've never had otherwise. I've learned about agents, how to find critique partners, how cover design works, what to look for in an editor, and met people who work in publishing that share the good, the bad, and the ugly. For a really long time, I wanted to work in YA book publishing. It was thanks to blogging that I realized that wasn't actually the path I wanted to go down (and that's nothing against all the wonderful, wonderful people who work in publishing!). But I did learn that I love writing articles about things I care about and the glimpse at what people who work in PR and digital marketing do made me realize that I fit into that world far more than editorial at a publishing house. I've learned so many life lessons through basically running a small business (I literally had business cards I handed out at book events. Yes, I was that kid) that made no money. I've honed my cold emailing skills and gotten good at tastefully "bothering people" (something my introverted self despises). I've learned to market myself and make connections. I've learned a lot about working with brands through blog tours and ARC pitches. This blog has been the taste of how the "adult world" works that I desperately needed, and being vague about my age for so many years afforded me that.
When I first started reviewing, I tried to keep myself out of the writing. I didn't talk about my life or necessarily how the books related to my life. I've become a sharer as the years have gone on. I love giving life updates and being more open now. I love being honest about why I love the books I love. I've come into my own and realized I really do love sharing what I think. And, beyond the free books, when I think about quitting, I realize how weird it would feel to finish a book and not write about it. This blog has intrinsically become who I am as a person. Even as I've explored music blogging, podcasting, YouTube, art instagrams, and sharing my bullet journal pages, this blog always feels like my home base- the reliable place I can always return to. And I wouldn't have started any of these other endeavors if it wasn't for the tiny, tiny tastes of success and acceptance I found here. I've always been one to just start, and this will always be my special place because it was my first start. My first try.
Even though I really only see my future in the book world as a writer and not more like I once imagined, I can't imagine quitting blogging. I don't post on a schedule anymore or pressure myself to meet deadlines outside of commitments I've made to others, but that doesn't mean I love it any less. Honestly, it means I love it more. I think in this past year, I've gotten to a really healthy, sustainable place with this platform. It no longer gets all of me like it once did, but I think that's better. I think I've finally returned to where I began with the blog. Every post is an act of pure joy, only existing because I can't not tell you about everything that swirled through my brain as I read the book. Every listicle is full of books I can't wait to get my hands on. Everything I do now is an act of love and enthusiasm, and that brings me so much joy. I've found a renewed love of this space (and for bookstagram, I've been having so much fun with Reels). Thank you for sticking with me. And for letting the blog grow and change along with me. At the end of the day, I really just hope that sometime in the last four years, I've inspired even one person to pick up a book that later became their favorite. I sincerely love you all. Thank you for making me me.
A book where the ending blew your mind- @dearliterature on Instagram
This is such a hard question because I'm the worst at remembering endings. I read so many books they all just blur together, and I can really only tell you how the book made me feel even a week out. It's why I have to write my review before I start reading a new book, and I never read 2 YA books at the same time. But let me think...
I think my answer here has to be Verona Comics. There's no huge twist ending or anything, but I appreciated the realism of it. SPOILER, but I loved it because the two main characters don't end up together in the end. They learn so much from one another when they're together, and they don't end on bad terms. But staying together isn't what's best for either one of them ultimately. I also love that Ridley gets the mental healthcare he needs, which so rarely happens. It's a happy ending, even if it isn't a classic ending, and I loved that Dugan was bold enough to let the story have the resolution it truly deserved.
Most recently, I also applaud Yolk for doing that. It ends with literally nothing wrapped up and everything could hypothetically fall apart right after the final page, but there's a sense of contentment to it too. Like you just feel in your bones that everything will be okay in the least cheesy way possible. I love when books honor the story with their endings. And, while I wanted to read that book forever, a more certain conclusion would've betrayed Jayne's story.
How did you start partnering with authors to make reviews?- @dearliterature
For my reviews, I don't generally work with the author (though it does happen sometimes). I hear about a lot of books through Twitter from other bloggers or author chats. I also browse Netgalley (a site where you can request digital ARCs) for ideas. I email publishers from time to time, asking for ARCs of my most anticipated books. The weirdest part of doing that is that you never get an email in response. The book either shows up at your house in a couple weeks or it doesn't. Sometimes, I'll get an email pitching a book from a book tour company or from the marketing department at a major publisher where I'll get sent a link to read the book, and I'll find a title from that. Speaking of books showing up at your house, I also sometimes get finished copies of books that weren't on my radar mailed to me if the marketing person thinks I might be a good fit based on other books I've reviewed from that publishing house. And authors do sometimes approach me via email or DM to ask if I want to read and review their books (and sometimes I am a good fit).
Most of my partnership with authors comes in from interviews and guest posts. Sometimes these get coordinated through PR people at the publisher, but most of the time, it's because I know someone from social media or I send them a cold email asking if they'd be interested! Most of my work with authors is asking if people want to be featured on the blog and being totally prepared to hear nothing back (though YA authors are super nice, so that rarely happens). Back when there used to be in-person events, I would also tell authors about my blog and give them a card so they might recognize me and my blog when I reached out. The part I absolutely love most about this job is getting to work with and know authors. They really are the best people. I still don't feel qualified or like I know what I'm doing at all, but I've learned that most of book blogging (and life) is asking people for things and trying new ideas while being totally okay with failure. I've realized I'm never going to feel ready or qualified, so I'll let other people make that call for me. And often times, I've found, other people will give you far more credit than you give yourself. Also, a dose of genuine enthusiasm never hurts.
More on Reading, Writing, and Me
Talking Everything Yolk with Mary HK Choi
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