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!

The Year I Read Whatever I Want

If Lynn weren’t my middle name, I’m pretty sure it would be “Competitive.” For the most part, I’m completely unable to do things halfway — and once I’ve signed my name to something, you’d better believe I’ll come through. I’m not one to commit to a project without a clear intention of finishing, and that’s why it pains me to say . . .

I’m dropping out of all my reading challenges.

Yes, friends, the pressure has officially gotten to me. After years (years!) of trying to wrap up certain bookish competitions, I’m wiping the slate clean. Gone is my goal of reading 100 books in a year (I’m at 83 — and more on that in the future). I’ve said adios to reading more young adult, chick lit or historical fiction . . . just because. In a post from January, Rebecca at The Book Lady’s Blog called 2010 her “year of reading deliberately,” and I’m pretty much in love with that phrase. That’s what 2011 will be for me.

That’s not to say I don’t still enjoy seeing others complete challenges — or value them myself! In trying to complete reading challenges since I started blogging in 2008, I’ve had tons of fun reading new authors and setting goals for myself. I like goals — I enjoy goals — but I’ve decided I need a break. I need to relax and not be so . . . intense about my reading schedule. I need to allow myself to start a large book if I want to, never fearing that I won’t be “reading enough” and filling a book quota if it takes me a week or two to complete one novel rather than my standard two or three days.

As I’ve said: I’m super competitive. Once I start something, I want to win, darn it! I want to vanquish — and conquer! I’m a sore loser and, occasionally, a bad sport. And I know myself well enough to understand that in order to recover a modicum of my sanity, I need to make 2011 The Year I Read Whatever I Want.

I’m not going to stop accepting review copies, taking suggestions or welcoming new books into my home; I’m humbled and grateful for those sent for my consideration. But what I am going to do is strike more of a balance between reading what I want — books I’ve chosen — and those sent for review. I’m going to work steadfastly to clear some space in my super-tall bookcase, which is now at capacity once again. I’m going to grab novels that strike my fancy and buy a book at a bookstore Just Because. I’m not going to check a thousand and one reviews of it first, then weigh the pros and cons of making an “investment” in a paperback.

I’m just going to buy the darn book.

Or, you know, borrow it. That’s something else I’d love to do more of in 2011: visit my local library, which can be a treasure trove of both lesser-known and new books. I want to wantonly choose a novel and finish it whenever I feel like it (without accruing library fines, of course).

In short, I want to read Whatever I Want.

How about you — are you making any reading goals for 2011? Planning to participate any challenges that might make me re-think my whole “OMG No Challenges!” thing? Are you going to Read Whatever You Want, too?