Book Blogger Convention, year two

After much preparation and a few anxiety-ridden nights on behalf of yours truly, the Book Blogger Convention in New York City was another success! Bloggers from around the world met on May 27 at the Javits Center to meet, chat and share our passion (obsession?) with books.

Spencer and I arrived in the city the night before and, like a timid 4-year-old en route to her first day of preschool, my boyfriend was kind enough to walk me from our hotel to Javits. Shaking like a leaf, I tried to contain my nerves as he dropped me off with a reassuring hug before my 10 a.m. panel. I was nervous, as I shared — and I’ll make no bones about it. Despite feeling like I know a bit about this crazy thing called blogging, the morning was colored with my anxiety over saying something ridiculous in front of you kind people.

But it didn’t go down that way — it never goes down that way. For the many, many times I’ve sat around freaking myself out regarding public speaking, I’ve never blanked out, humiliated myself or gone on a terrible coughing jag the way I do in my imagination. I just had the morning to stew about it.

After enjoying breakfast, where I was found by the lovely Kim from Sophisticated Dorkiness, I reconnected with friends and met one of my favorite publishing ladies (hi Lydia!). It’s always nice to start the day in a social way (hey, that rhymes!) — chatting with everyone is my favorite part of any blogger meet-up. Putting a face to a name (or email, or avatar) is what makes something like the BBC such a good time — it reminds us that we’re all . . . well, people. Real people. Real people who really, really like books.

Our event’s keynote speaker was Sarah Wendell, the queen blogger at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books. I’ve been reading SBTB for years (and even won a David Hasselhoff prize pack from a contest there), so I was excited to hear her speak. I loved Sarah’s overall message and am kicking myself for not having paper handy (what kind of writer am I?), but it was all about keeping perspective. On one hand, she said, remember that “you are but a grain of sand.” Wise words — especially online. It’s also true, though, that “the world was made for you” — and we all have something important to say. Though millions of blogs are updated daily, no one has a truer voice — a “you”-er voice — than . . . you.

The first panel of the day was up next, so I popped out of the main room long enough to get acclimated for our “Practical Challenges of Blogging” set. Joined by Raych, Jenn, Lenore and Kristen, we discussed topics that perplex all of us — how much personal information to share online; how to manage review copies; how to interact with authors, publishers, publicists — and, I hope, provided some useful ideas. Once I got on a roll, my nerves calmed considerably — and I had a great time talking with the ladies and audience about blogging and reading, two of my favorite topics. Thanks to everyone for their thoughtful comments and questions, too; once folks started raising their hands, I knew we would be okay.

Lunch was a good sort of blur after I came down from my adrenaline high, and the build-your-own-swag bag portion of the day was up next. I was a good girl and only walked away with one book at first; I’ve been making a concentrated effort not to be a total book glutton. If my caving bookshelves weren’t enough to dissuade me from bringing in more novels, the stress of accepting slews of review copies — and the accompanying guilt — would be. This year’s bags were really cute and perfect for — you guessed it! — carrying books. Love them.

Author speed dating was my next adventure — and oh, what an adventure. Overall, I really loved this chance to meet new-to-me authors and discuss their work — and I’ve never been happier to have Alison, the friendliest and sweetest person ever, sitting across from me at an event. Without her wit and easygoing demeanor, we could have had quite the mess on our hands. Some of these authors were not playing around.

Among the many writers that took a seat at our two-blogger-team table were Chikota Webb, Anna North, Laurie Boris, Alafair Burke and Jim Higley — and it was Jim’s story that had me riveted, the one shared in the forthcoming Bobblehead Dad. By the time he finished telling us about his family and experiences with cancer, I was practically racing out of the room to grab a copy of his book. That was the fun of this event: being “sold” a book by none other than the creator him/herself. While Bobblehead Dad isn’t a book I would have chosen on my own, I read half of the memoir on the train ride home and am loving it. Life is very surprising.

And, of course, I was beyond excited to meet Krissy Gasbarre in person. Last month, I fell in love with her debut memoir How To Love An American Man , promptly decided to become her best friend and sent her a very fan-girly email. After trading notes, I decided she was one of my new favorite people. Meeting her — and gushing like a maniac — was a definite highlight of the BBC, and I can’t wait to see what else she has in store for us. I was delighted to learn that she’s just as sweet and sincere as she seems in her book, and I’m hoping great things are afoot for her. (Seriously, get that book in August — it cut right to the core of me.)

The day was wrapped up by a series of panels on blogging for a niche market and technology for blogging, and I tried to bounce between the two and snap as many photos as I could. I settled in with Heather and decompressed while reminiscing about Ireland with she and Gabriela. It was a great, chill way to end a fun and demanding afternoon, and I was thrilled to have met so many interesting people, passed out every single one of my business cards and survived my first public speaking opportunity in years. When Spencer arrived to collect me out front, I practically sagged with relief into his arms.

I’m not as fearless as I used to be. I guess huddling around my computer for hours each day has made me tentative.

But it’s made me bold, too, which shouldn’t make sense — but it does. As I shared on the panel, projecting myself as a friendly and confident person through writing has made me a friendly, confident person in real life. Sharing my life and favorite reads with you has transformed me from a bit of a stalled-out writer to a young woman ready to get out there, network and tackle the world. I’m thankful for the opportunity — and loved spending the weekend in New York. Here’s to many more bright, bold and bookish adventures!


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Off to New York

Trains are really, really fun. I can’t remember the first time I ever rode one — maybe in Williams, Ariz., en route to the Grand Canyon — but they sure as heck beat bus travel or, in many ways, trying to trundle through busy airports and drag my tired self through security before getting on a stuffy, germ-infested airplane.

Not that I don’t like airplanes. Or won’t board one.

But trains? Well, trains are tops.

And I’m on one right now, making my way to New York City for the Book Blogger Convention and other fun festivities in the city. It’s true that the Big Apple has a distinct vibe all its own, and I had a great time last May seeing the city with my family. My boyfriend Spencer will be with me now and, come hell or high water, I intend to have frozen hot chocolate at Serendipity 3. It’s, like, number one on my bucket list.

Okay — maybe not number one. Swimming in a vat of pumpkin spice lattes is probably number one. But it’s up there.

Happy Memorial Day to my American friends, and I hope to catch up with many of you in the city this weekend. But if I don’t see your smiling face, I’ll look forward to visiting you all when I return next week!

Preparing to be challenged at the Book Blogger Convention

I’m packing up my suitcase, finalizing my outline and getting ready for a rockin’ weekend in New York — it’s time again for the Book Blogger Convention! I had such an awesome time last year, meeting friends I’d previously known only by avatar and eating as much as I could in three days.

Though Spencer and I will be arriving in the city this Thursday — too late to attend Book Expo America, sadly — I’m really looking forward to Friday and my panel at the BBC: Practical Challenges of Blogging, which is happening from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. (lunch!). I should emphasize that we won’t be just talking about challenges, of course; I hope that, after a few hours, we’ve offered some solutions, too. 

My only hope is that I won’t embarrass myself in front of all of you, my lovely contemporaries, as well as my esteemed co-panelists Lenore, Jenn, Raych and Kristen. Sometimes when I get nervous, my voice gets high-pitched and I start talking really, really fast.

I guess this is when that college communicatons class comes in handy. Those days crafting persuasive speeches weren’t for nothing!

My plan is to wear red, my power color, since I wore the Power Dress last year — and I’m not sure if the dress’s power maintains its strength from year to year. Plus, you know — I can’t be seen in the same dress at the same event two years in a row. I’m no fashionista, but I certainly know that much.

Will I see you in New York?

Preparing for the BBC: Practical Challenges of Blogging

Now that I’m not coughing myself into oblivion, friends, I think it’s high time I got back on the blogging wagon and began pondering the Big Projects I have going on this spring.

After a somewhat frantic 2010, I was looking forward to cooling my jets, relaxing and not overextending myself too much in 2011. Three months in and I can already tell you, for sure, that my jets are far from cooled. They’re on fire. And one of the biggest, most exciting projects I’m planning involves the upcoming Book Blogger Convention in New York City.

Were you there last year? Was your mind blown by the informative panels and  face-to-face time with folks we know only by Gravatar or Twitter handle? Did you tweet live from the event and then write a blog about blogging, all meta-style?

I did. It was awesome.

I’ll be going this year and bringing Spencer with me to the Big Apple, and I can’t wait to visit the city again and meet so many of you — whether for the first, second or third time.

And not only that. In addition to attending this year’s BBC, I’ll actually be speaking on one of several panels happening Friday, May 27.

Gulp.

Together with the lovely and talented Raych, Jenn, Lenore and Kristen, we’ll be leading the Practical Challenges of Blogging panel from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. (lunch!). I’m very, very excited but also very, very nervous, so I’m trying to plan this methodically so I don’t stand up in front of everyone with the glassy, terrified expression of a slack-jawed nut. I mean, this is two hours, friends. Two hours of us talking to you. About things. About blogging.

Blogging.

We all have an opinion on it, obviously — we’re here doing it. Night and day. Day and night. Regardless of the weather, we’re talkin’ books and reading and authors and it’s fun.

But what happens when life keeps us from our keyboards? We all have families, spouses, children, full- or part-time jobs. We have other hobbies. We travel. We have to make dinner.

How do we accomplish it all?

As our panel puts together the topics we’ll cover at the BBC, I’d like you all to take the floor now:

Bloggers, what do you find most challenging about maintaining a book blog?


Is it managing review copies? Finding time to write thoughtful reviews? Fielding emails from other bloggers, authors, or publishers? Writing negative reviews? Or, you know, justifying to your family why you’re checking your blog stats again?

In New York, we’ll be talking about how we blog — but I’d like your input before we set foot in the Javits Center.

And just to sweeten the pot, leave a response before Tuesday, March 22 and I’ll enter you in a giveaway for Melissa Ford’s Life From Scratch, one of my favorite recent novels about — surprise! — a blogger. Just make sure I have a way to contact you!

Thank you — and see you in May?

Peek inside my swag bag from the Book Blogger Convention

From the moment I arrived at the Book Blogger Convention and saw those canvas totes lined up down the hallway, my fingers started itching with that old, familiar tingle.

Free books.

I didn’t know there would be free books, friends. I’d gotten an email from an author days earlier implying I’d be receiving a copy of her book at the event, but I wasn’t completely sure what she was talking about. Just in case there weren’t free books, I didn’t want to get my hopes up.

The funny about about readers — and book bloggers — is that we all probably have one quarter of a million books waiting for us to be read. Thinking now about my overflowing bookcase, I cringe when imagining having to toss even one more book on the shelves without reading one and removing it.

But the allure of free books — worlds yet undiscovered — is too strong. And since many of you asked me what was in those mysterious canvas totes, I’m here to tell you. With a handy diagram.



Inside Meg’s swag bag:

1. Well, the swag bag itself. Which is awesome, sturdy and has been used since my return to cart other books to work and beyond.

2. A super awesome Spike Light, courtesy of Authors On The Web. And, um? Mine is PINK. Love.

3. Books! Titles in my bag were Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson (audio); The Great Lover by Jill Dawson; The Nature Of Jade by Deb Caletti; Secret Lives Of Husbands and Wives by Josie Brown; The Outside Boy by Jeanine Cummins; Think Of A Number by John Verdon; and the Perfect 10 Diet. Also included? A yearly journal (I’m going to write my monthly reading on each page) and a reading guide with synopsises and discussion questions for many current books.

4. A Spyology pen, which writes in invisible ink.

5. A “Fail” stamp, which has already proven to be way more hilarious than I think the creators intentioned. I think my sister has stolen it, and if she hasn’t — Spencer definitely has. Also? Lots of bookmarks and other promotional materials; a handheld mirror advertising a new wedding novel; buttons and tiny book-related postcards.

6. A T-shirt for Sandra Brannan’s In The Belly Of Jonah, some cute notecards with a reading theme, and a mousepad for The Monkey Bible.



So there you have it, friends. After the convention was over, you’d see many of us folding under the weight of our swag as we made our way through the streets of New York, and I had a heck of a time getting this thing comfortably on the train the next day! But does that mean I’m unappreciative? Absolutely not. It was worth the shoulder ache — and I’m grateful for the goodies.

And I’ve shared many of my spoils with friends and coworkers, plus my sister has confiscated The Great Lover and is quickly making her way through that one. Look for reviews soon.

New York weekend: The Book Blogger Convention

Well, friends, I’m back — and not a moment too soon! I’d like to apologize for my longest period of blogging MIA-ness in the history of write meg! Ironically, my absence completely coincided with, of all things, a blogging convention.

And not just any blogging convention, but the Book Blogger Convention in New York City. Held May 28 at the Javits Center in Manhattan, I took the train up with my family late Thursday in order to be ready to talk shop with tons of fabulous bloggers, publishers and literary professionals from around the country.

I’ll be going into detail regarding other aspects of my trip soon, but the BBC was a definite highlight. I had an awesome time meeting so many folks I’ve only “known” through our blogs and Twitter and really enjoyed the many, varied panels on subjects like ethics in blogging, building content and marketing our blogs. Even more fun was hearing some of my favorite bloggers — like Rebecca and Christina – talking about how they blog.

Overall, the sentiment I took away from the convention was that what we do here — and what I do here — is important. All of our bookish discussions, conversations and contacts really do matter, and the fact that we are able to passionately and consistently talk about literature is a really valuable asset to the world of books. Are we “professionals”? Not in the traditional sense, no. But by sitting here and talking about novels day in and day out, we’re becoming “experts” in our own fields.

I’m an expert on chick lit, I’d wager. And lattes. And Power Dresses. (Yes, that’s me in mine above — rocked at the BBC. Please ignore the creepy Myspace-esque aspect of it; I had to change quickly before dinner and didn’t have anyone around to shoot a decent one for me!)

Big hugs to the many fabulous ladies (and a gentleman!) I met (some for the second time!), including Kari, Kim, Care, Sheila, Rebecca, Michelle, my girl Nicole, Alison, Amanda, Bill and many, many more! Hope to see everyone again very soon for more book-related craziness.

And if you need me? I’ll be pouring through the massive amount of swag in our parting gift bags. And scheming how to, you know, blog better. Because that’s just the name of the game, isn’t it?

(Later in the week I’ll be posting on other adventures in New York City, including an enormously detailed “What I Ate” commentary, but for now? Enjoy these shots from a very unique, fun day.)


Care, Kim and Sheila at breakfast

Trish of Hey Lady, Whatcha Readin' kicks off the day's festivities

Maureen Johnson, our hilarious keynote speaker

Some of the crowd

Ron Hogan, who spoke about ethics in blogging

Outside our conference room, and some of the swag bags

Inside the Javits Convention Center, which was absolutely enormous

Amy of My Friend Amy and author Beth Kephart speaking during a panel on author/blogger relationships

Kim of Sophisticated Dorkiness and Christina of Stacked discuss building content on our blogs

One of the many fine panels

How you could identify yours truly

Things on my mind as I prepare for New York City

I’m just three days away from making the trip to New York City for the Book Blogger Convention, and do you think I’ve even started to think about the journey, my clothes or — more importantly — what books I’m bringing?!

Well, OK, yes — I have thought (a little) about what I’m packing, as evidenced by my most recent short post. Because, you know, I need to look good at this thing. I can’t show up in my typical non-work apparel of University of Maryland T-shirts, scuffed flip-flops and oversized purses carrying everything and everything’s brother. I need to Make An Effort. I need to Be Professional.

You know, I have high standards for my blogging self.

So, yes, I’ve decided to definitely wear my Power Dress to Friday’s BBC in NYC (that’s fun to type!) and I’m feeling pret-ty good about it. Stuff I’m not feeling good about? Figuring what shoes to wear that will simultaneously be fashionable and not kill my feet. Because last year, in London? Your girl Meg decided to wear flip-flops around England. When I was, you know, seeing the entire city on foot. Or what felt like the entire city, anyway. And by the time I made it home to Maryland? I had pinched a nerve. Between my toes. And then I had to try and figure out why I couldn’t feel my toe on my never-ending flight back to the States.

Answer: I was a moron.

There will be no repeat performance this year. As I’ve gotten older and, hopefully, wiser, I’ve finally succumbed to the fact that beauty does occasionally equal pain – but I’m just not all right with that. Nothing kills a great day faster than wanting to chop off your own foot. This vacation? I’m planning accordingly.

Because it is, on top of everything else, a vacation. My sister’s college graduation is all finished — and we had a rip-roarin’ good time! I’m so proud of my baby sister and all her accomplishments, and it’s awesome to welcome another journalist into the family. Well, I’m an editor, technically, but I do work for a newspaper and write a biweekly column. It’s all about me, sure, but it’s writing. In a paper. So = journalism, right? (Not really, but we’ll roll with it.)

Other things on my mind for this upcoming adventure? What books to bring. This is always the trouble for me, see, because I tend to overpack and bring along a million novels. Logically I know I’m not going to have that much time to read and will most likely buy even more books to bring home with me from my travels, but I still have this irrational fear that I will — gasp! – run out of reading material. And let’s be serious: that’s terrifying.

I’m in the middle of two novels right now — Danielle Ganek’s The Summer We Read Gatsby and Chemistry For Beginners by Anthony Strong — and while I’m enjoying both, I still feel like I want a “fresh” book to accompany me on my trip to New York City. The last time I set foot in the Big Apple, I was a tender 12-year-old who spent the entire bus ride up and back staring longingly at the blonde-haired kid named Matt I had a wicked, wicked crush on. The kind of crush that makes your whole body blush when they even hazard a glance in your direction. The sort of crush that makes you feel like you’ve been Tasered if they deign to pick up a pencil you’ve dropped. (Or, you know, thrown. At them. In an adolescent attempt to get their attention. I was really smooth and flirtacious and charming, what can I say.)

So what magical, fresh and fun book will be coming with me to NYC? One I just picked up at Borders the other day: Morgan Matson’s Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour. The title alone was intriguing, but once I saw that gorgeous, gorgeous cover? Well, I was already hooked. I saw a tweet about it a few weeks back and started doing some research, and it didn’t take me long to want to get my greedy, book-lovin’ hands all over Matson’s debut novel. So hey there, Amy and Roger — you’re going on an epic detour with me!

And yes, I promise to bring my cheesy sense of humor with me on Friday. Get ready for a good time, y’all, because Meg’s out in full force. And since I’ll be in comfortable shoes, I’ll be ready to chase you down to chat. Don’t think I won’t, either; I’m not subtle.