Half a million

Cupcakes


Yesterday morning, write meg! quietly hit a milestone: 500,000 page views.

Half a million views. Of my posts.

That’s not unique visitors, friends; WordPress doesn’t divulge that information to yours truly. But regardless, half a million views feels pretty . . . well, pretty huge to me.

My blog will turn five years old (!) in June, so I’ll save the sappy memories for then. In the meantime, thanks for coming by. As the years have progressed, write meg! morphed from a personal blog to a bookish one . . . and is now somewhere in the middle: a sweet literature-laced hybrid of the two. While I don’t have a real blogging “identity” or fit into a niche, as professionals decree, I know that I love this space and all its incarnations — and our community.

Onward!


BBAW, day four: Changing how we read (and live)

We’re still sailing through Book Blogger Appreciation Week, happening now through Friday, and today’s topic is an opportunity to discuss how our reading habits have changed as a result of book blogging. Has book blogging affected our book acquisition habits? Have we made new connections with others because of book blogging?

And my simple answer is: yes.

The most obvious example of my changed world of reading is evident in my “to be read” stack, which is now less a stack and more of a . . . well, of a bookcase. Once upon a time — so far back now, I can barely remember — I had a literal stack of novels by my bedside (pictured below). Of the few dozen books in my room, these were the only books I hadn’t yet read — and once I was done with them, they would move on to other readers in my life: my sister; my coworkers; a friend from school.

When I began actively blogging about books and left my job at Borders, I became gluttonous. I truly remember stopping to think, “Now that I won’t be picking up so many books at work, I need to find another source.” Like an addict on the hunt for her fix, I turned to the Internet, my old friend, as a way to continue my conversations about books and add more to my pile.

And the pile grew. And grew. And grew. I joined websites like BookMooch, where I would trade my already-loved books for others. I entered tons of blog giveaways. In time I began receiving advanced reading copies of books from publishers . . . and that’s when I really began my downhill descent into madness. My “to be read” stack hasn’t been an actual stack in years; it’s now shelves upon shelves of beautiful books, all waiting patiently for their time in the sun (or my hands, as the case may be).

And I totally blame book blogging.

Here’s the thing: you all tempt me with your “You have to read this book!” talk so much that I’m powerless to resist your recommendations. When a blogger I love and admire says in the serious tone the well-read, “You can’t miss this one” — well, I can’t miss that one. So whether I’m accepting a review copy, buying it myself or tearing into a package from a generous friend, I have to have that book.

The more I read about books, the more I want them. The more I write about books, the more I want to read more of them. I love reading so much that I could happily spend most days wrapped up in words and plots and characters, and I never realized other people did, too. Not even when I spent every minute of most days in an English program in college. Not even when my other literature geek friends wanted to chat about Jane Austen and Shakespeare and Edith Wharton.

It wasn’t until I started blogging about books and “meeting” so many of you that I realized I had found “my peeps.” Not to get all sappy, but at a point in my life where it’s difficult to make new friends — we’re out of school; we’re working in the same job for years — the friendships I’ve formed through book blogging have filled a tangible gap in my life. And as I wrote last year, blogging has given me confidence to excel in so many areas of my life. It led to real-life work opportunities, a renewed interest in photography, and my friendship with fellow blogger Jessica — a buddy who would later encourage me to join an online dating site. And that’s how I met Spencer.

Could I have found this man I love without Jessica — or the dating site, or my blog? Eh . . . maybe. But probably not. And I don’t think it’s too big of a stretch to contribute the awesomeness of my life to the connections I’ve forged through blogging. And that’s to say nothing of the friendships I’ve formed with countless other people, and the fun “real life” times we’ve had at events like the Book Blogger Convention and National Book Festival (that’s Deborah and Heather above!).

So I love you guys. Thanks for making my “to be read” stack into less of a stack and more of a room, and for encouraging me to be funny and silly and ridiculous and open in a way that I never thought I could. Thanks for giving credence to some of the random things I say, and for making me feel so confident and free. Thanks for reminding me that I matter — and that we all do. Just thanks for being here.

BBAW, day two: Interview with Jodie of Book Gazing

One of my favorite parts of celebrating Book Blogger Appreciation Week, happening now through Friday, is the chance to find new-to-me bloggers and see what they’re all about. In the past, my interview with other bloggers have been such fun and helped me forge friendships with folks I might not have discovered on my own.

In that vein, I’m pleased to welcome Jodie from Book Gazing today! A U.K.-based blogger, Jodie is a big Oasis fan with a penchant for the written word (like so many of us). Through email, we recently discussed my adventurous ability to try haggis in Scotland and I gushed unabashedly about what a crazy anglophile I am. Seriously, it’s to the point that I freak out when I encounter a Brit and want to break out in a crazy accent.

But I’ve been really working on my British accent. Maybe it’s not so scary anymore.

Without further ado from yours truly, get to know Jodie in our interview swap for BBAW!


1. On your blog’s main page, you write, “Have you ever found yourself sat in front of a bookcase entranced by the options in front of you? Then you’re a bookgazer . . .,” a statement to which I can happily relate. When wandering a bookshop, what’s the fastest way to get a book in your hands? What qualities in a book cover grab you immediately?

A pretty cover really is the way to open my purse, as I’m afraid I’m terribly shallow when it comes to impulse purchases. I’ve been known to override doubts about content because a book looks delicious, which has obvious problems. Fortunately I have pretty wide tastes in book covers, so a book needs to be attractive, but I find that beauty comes in many forms.


2. I see that, like me, you’re a panelist in the Indie Lit Awards — and as voting members, we’ll be getting our reading list from open nominations in the months to come. Do you enjoy assigned reading? Or would you rather choose all of your reading material yourself?

I can be contrary when it comes to assigned reading. I contribute to a group blog called Lady Business and I look forward to the other contributors giving me book recommendations. Last year I had no trouble getting excited about reading my five Indie Lit books. I’ve taken part in a couple of successful readalongs, with individual bloggers and a group called The Slaves of Golconda.

However, although I love all the list-making I consistently fail at reading the books I pick for other people’s challenges. I think the key to getting myself to read assigned books is to keep the unreasonable little voice inside me from harping on about approaching deadlines, otherwise I have a bad reaction and ditch books as some kind of weird readerly rebellion against pressure I’ve put on myself.


3. What do you think is the most underrated young adult novel you’ve ever encountered? Are there any YA books you’d really like to champion — and try to promote when you can?

This is a hard one to answer, because I don’t interact with all the different kinds of readers who pick up YA (young readers, teenagers, readers who aren’t bloggers) and living in the blogging world skews my perception of how certain books are being received. I would never have guessed ‘The Monstrumologist’ wasn’t making enough money, for example, because I kept seeing lots of bloggers talk about it.

Sarwat Chadda’s two Billi Sangreal books ‘Devil’s Kiss’ and ‘Dark Goddess’ about a teenage girl who belongs to the Knights Templars always felt rather neglected by mainstream media, but it’s possible we’ll see a film adaptation soon, so how neglected it really was must be up for debate. Chadda’s books are well written, well paced adventure novels featuring Knights Templars, who live to fight the forces of evil, have proved extremely popular in the adult book and film market. Billi skews the stereotypical kickass warrior character by retaining her ability to emotionally connect and I think we realy need more warriors like that in literature. I’m really pleased to see that Chadda has received a publishing contract for a new series.

Here’s a sampling of some other YA books I think deserve more notice than they get. I am constantly banging on about them all over the place, so sorry for repeating myself:

• ‘8th Grade Super Zero’ by Olugbemisola – contemporary fiction that contains a very relateable, conflicted teenage protagonist

• ‘A Wish After Midnight’ by Zetta Elliot – a ‘be careful what you wish for’ time travel narrative that deals out very real consequences to a girl who tosses pennies in a fountain

• ‘Ten Cents a Dance’ by Christina Fletcher – a girl struggles to keep her family afloat and herself out of the depressing cannery factories by becoming a taxi dancer, as WWII begins

• ‘What They Always Tell Us’ by Martin Wilson – contemporary YA about emptiness, brothers, running, and happy, romantic love between boys

• ‘The Agency’ series by Y S Lee – Female spies in Victorian London. Need I say more?


4. What’s your favorite part of running a book blog? What do you find the most challenging?

I’m terrible at design, which is why I got my banner from a talented graphics professional. I also generally lack enthusiasm for all the upkeep that can be necessary to make a blog really great (SEO work, tidying etc).

My favourite part has to be all the people that I get to engage with (I know, sappy). This year I feel like I’ve started to become really close to a few bloggers, even though I haven’t been posting as much. Hugs to everyone!


5. Let’s play the desert island game. You can take three books from three different genres with you to a desert island — and that’s your only reading material for a year. Which do you choose?

If I can only read three books for a year I need a couple of guaranteed re-reads. There has to be something by Pratchett (I’ve reread most of his books already). It’s a hard choice but in the end I plump for ‘Good Omens’ by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, a book from the fantasy genre.

Next I’ll fill a slot with a classic that would have been contemporary fiction when it was first written. I have a feeling I could learn a lot about patience and being a grown up from a reread of ‘Persuasion’ by Jane Austen.

Finally I’d choose something new and unread for variety, something I’m really looking forward to digging into. Maybe some historical fiction, like ‘Fingersmith’ by Sarah Waters, since I’ve just finished her fourth novel ‘The Night Watch’. Her writing consistently floors me.

And don’t miss my interview questions over at Book Gazing!

BBAW, day one: Community

You know, I never would have imagined I could find a group of people — strangers, initially — with whom I could talk about books and life and cupcakes and form these lasting friendships that have already sustained me through challenging times.

Here’s the thing about book blogging: we’re not just reviewing books. We bring to our environment a shared passion for the written word — whether that’s fantasy, romance, science fiction — and never let it go. We connect with each other over novels but come together with so much more. In fact, when I imagine the major milestones in my life — marriage, children, a new job — I often fantasize about how I’ll share the news with my book blogger buddies.

Is that weird? Maybe. But I love you guys.

Today, the first day of Book Blogger Appreciation Week, we’re asked to recognize the people who have made book blogging a unique experience for us. I long consider Rebecca of The Book Lady’s Blog to be a mentor of sorts — mostly because she’s awesome, and she’s one of the first book blogs I discovered. We got our sites up and running around the same time and both worked for corporate booksellers back in 2008. A friendship blossomed and I’ve been overjoyed as her range of influence has only widened, and she’s a darn hilarious and fine person. So rock on, my friend.

Over time, you may have noticed that the quality of my photos is slowing improving . . . and I’ve worked harder to make write meg! visually pleasing. I’ve always been interested in graphic design and enjoy the coding aspects of blogging, but it’s Kay from The Infinite Shelf who really inspired me to step up my game. Her blog is both interesting and beautiful, and her photos are incredible achievements. She inspires me with her cute comics and awesome book thoughts, and I feel motivated to make changes here every time I visit.

And who do I credit with turning me onto my favorite book series of all time? Natalie of Book, Line, and Sinker, who is also a stellar friend. A few years back she encouraged me to read Megan McCafferty’s Jessica Darling series, and it wasn’t long before I rejoiced in my new book crush. I’ve remained devoted to Marcus ever since. Sloppy Firsts was probably not a book I would have picked up on my own, so I’m eternally grateful to Nat for contributing to Marcus’ and my blossoming romance.

The first person to get me to crack open a graphic novel? Credit goes to Lu from Regular Rumination, a blogger I adore. Her recommendation that I read Craig Thompson’s Blankets was perfect, and I fell in love with Thompson’s tale of first love and the way it affects the rest of our lives. His illustrations paired perfectly with the book’s emotional content, and I never thought a graphic novel could make me cry. But it did.

In January, I read several awesome works of literary fiction for the Indie Lit Awards — including Safe From The Sea, which is one of my favorite reads this year. It was a novel that surprised and moved me, and another book I wouldn’t have read if I hadn’t gotten involved in the awards process.

My friendships with book bloggers have impacted my life in countless ways, and I’m grateful for the way they’ve inspired me to try new books and branch outside my vanilla reading life. My bookshelves are heaving beneath the weight of their recommendations — and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

BBAW: Celebrating the vast awesomeness of our community

Though I give this same spiel every year, I can’t believe it’s almost September — and time again to celebrate Book Blogger Appreciation Week!

Now in my third year of blogging, I see with clear eyes how much work and dedication it takes to make a site succeed. It’s not just about reading books and reviewing them, as we all know; it’s about personality. Panache. Passion. (And some other “P” words I can’t think of right now.)

BBAW is our yearly celebration of all things book blogging — and the voices behind those websites: yours and mine. Speaking at the Book Blogger Convention this year reaffirmed my commitment to and love of all things book blogging, and I hope you’ll take some time to honor your favorites by participating this year.

The awards process has changed for 2011 — basically, you create an account with the site, register with your own profile and then nominate your much-loved blogs in many different categories. Also note that self-nomination is not allowed this year, which is a change-up from previous BBAW celebrations.

But BBAW isn’t only about awards. In the past, our blogging community has come together to interview one another, celebrate books we’ve loved in the past and so much more. Last fall, I shared how blogging has made my life pretty awesome — and I still mean every word. The idea is really just to celebrate one another, raise our collective (metaphorical) champagne glasses and toast one another’s hard work.

Because we’re important. Our voices matter. The publishing industry takes us seriously. Some of our favorite authors know who we are. And you know what? We’re pretty great. Talented, erudite, honest and great.

I mean, I love us. So let’s all spread that through BBAW participation.

Award nominations are happening now through August 13 at the site, so don’t forget to march your little self on over there and get to it!

BBAW: First Treasure

The fun has arrived! Today marks the start of Book Blogger Appreciation Week, five days of fun celebrating the hard work, dedication and zaniness of folks who spend their days (and nights, and weekends) discussing, analyzing and promoting the written word.

If you’re new to write meg!, welcome — I’m Meg, an editor, writer and — yes! — book blogger from Maryland. I love long walks on the beach, pumpkin spice lattes and cupcakes. Lots of them. If I can have or do any combination of those things and have a book in my hand, I’m a happy lady.

Our first day of BBAW prompts, “We invite you to share with us about a great new book blog you’ve discovered since BBAW last year! If you are new to BBAW or book blogging, share with us the very first book blog you discovered. Tell us why this blog rocks your socks off and why you keep going back for more.”

Through the course of any given day, many book blogs keep me entertained with great reviews, thought-provoking discussions and, above all, awesome content. Since the start of last year’s BBAW, which I discussed here, I’ve started spending plenty of time with a variety of bloggers — and their wonderful sites! But I can’t mention new ones without bringing up the tried-and-true favorites. So, because I’m me, I’ll make two lists.


Meg’s fresh finds


Chick Lit Is Not Dead Liz and Lisa, novelists themselves, run a great blog dedicated to promoting — what else? — chick lit and women’s fiction authors through interviews, reviews and giveaways. And their giveaways? Fan-freakin’-tastic. And constant. Don’t miss out — I won an audio version of Emily Giffin’s Heart Of The Matter earlier this year.

The Book Chick — Jonita’s blog is filled with fresh, interesting reviews on all the books I love to read, and I rarely leave without adding a hefty amount to my wishlist! She always answers the questions I most want to know about a book, too, and her opinion carries tremendous weight with me.

Hist-Fic Chick — Another “Chick” blog, but hey — it works. I only recently discovered Allie’s blog, but I enjoy her way with words and the lovely look of her site. Just as I judge books by their covers, I judge blogs by their layouts. There’s just something . . . incredibly harmonious about it.


Can’t forget the classics


Austenprose — Laurel Ann is my go-to for all things Austen, and I’m never left unsatisfied after stopping by Austenprose. Her informative, fun posts keep me in the know on all things regarding our dear Miss Jane, and I’m fortunate to call her a friend.

Book, Line, and Sinker — Natalie is one of my closest bloggy buds and her posts on everything from taking better photos of your TBR stack to crafting envelopes from old book pages are as fun as they are inspirational. I love her witty sense of humor and succinct, intelligent book reviews, always trusting what she has to say. And she introduced me to Marcus Flutie so, you know . . . I owe her a huge debt of gratitude. A formal invitation to the marrige of Meg and Marcus is forthcoming.

The Infinite Shelf — In addition to being an incredibly nice person, Kay is another blogger whose opinion I know I can always rely on. We have very similar tastes in young adult and contemporary fiction, and I can’t get enough of her hilarious comics and gorgeous photography! Seriously, she’s a master. I die in envy each time I see one of her travel posts. Die.

Steph Su Reads — Steph is another blogger I trust whole-heartedly and so look forward to her reviews! She manages to say something intelligent and kind about even the most not-so-interesting-sounding reads, and I really appreciate her insights on the books I’ve loved and ones I hope to read someday. Her blog is another I can’t leave without adding a million books to my TBR stack.

BBAW will soon be upon us

Though summer still spreads before us like a glorious picnic blanket, it’s already time to start talking about Book Blogger Appreciation Week 2010. Last year’s festivities were such a blast, there’s no way I won’t be participating in this year’s events, too. If you’ve forgotten, friends, I interviewed Laurel Ann of Austenprose (adore her) and Tiffany of Tif Talks Books and chatted about some of my other favorite bloggers.

In between all that, I voted and communicated and found tons of new book bloggers, some of whom I still visit regularly. It was like a giant ice cream sundae for the book blogging community of which we’re all a part — a way for us to recognize each other for our hard work and dedication to the literary world. Sometimes it all goes unnoticed, we think, but then something like BBAW creeps up on us. Then? Not so unnoticed.

Voting this year is working differently than last September — mainly because now, we’re nominating ourselves! Visit the website to check out the niche categories and featured categories, then put yourself out there in the category you feel fits your blog best. This isn’t the time to be humble, friends; nominate away!

So I didn’t really know what niche category in which to settle write meg! I don’t write exclusively about any one genre and focus, instead, on young adult, women’s fiction, literary fiction, Austenesque novels and the occasional fantasy. In that vein, I threw my hat in for Best Eclectic Book Blog and Best Written Book Blog. To illustrate that, here are five posts to help me put my money where my typing is:
 

Best Eclectic Book Blog
Book review: French Milk by Lucy Knisley (graphic novel/memoir)
Book review: The Summer We Fell Apart by Robin Antalek (literary fiction)
Book review: The Evolution Of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly
(young adult historical fiction)
Book review: North Of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley (young adult contemporary fiction)
Book review: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Shaffer, Barrows
(historical fiction)
 

Best Written Book Blog
Book review: Fat Cat by Robin Brande
Book review: The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Book review: Blankets by Craig Thompson
Book review: Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer
Book review: Life After Yes by Aidan Donnelley Rowley
 

Pop over and learn more about BBAW ’10!