Note: I wrote this post in several chunks, one of which was late at night and in a strange, semi-giddy mood, so the tone and writing style may have, er, changed rather abruptly throughout. Oops? Well, all the more fun for you!
Why I Am Thankful for the YA Blogging Community
1. I'm finally meeting people who share my interests. I'm sure that many of us have felt isolated more than a few times in our lives, with our love of books (sometimes over people), written words (over dialogue), and fiction (over reality). I read almost as much YA as I do now back when I was in high school, but I was always aware that it wasn't something I could talk about to many others, as most people didn't know the books I knew, or weren't half as passionate about reading as I was. It was something I did individually, secretly, almost shamefully, not knowing that there are indeed many people out there who love what I love, who support my passions and share them too. Which leads to Number 2...
2. I have something to talk about. I'm no good at small talk, which is probably a problem a lot of other bloggers have. (I hope I'm not generalizing too much when I'm supposing that many bloggers are at least partially introverts...?) I don't like talking about myself, or relating acquaintances' anecdotes for chuckles at cocktail parties. I can't for the life of me figure out how people are comfortable being the entertaining center of attention, regaling story after amusing story to a large group of people. But engage me in a one-on-one or small-group conversation about a YA book, or YA lit in general, or how YA lit can fit into education, and I have plenty to say, and more besides.
3. It builds my writing skills, and my confidence in them. I wrote a post about a similar topic several months ago, and I still stand by it. Not only do writing posts, creating reviews, chatting with blogger friends on Twitter, and writing emails that range from professional (to publishers and authors when I ask for blog interviews) to friendly (author friends) to cheeky (uhh, everyone, every once in a while?) all give me practice with my writing and finding my voice, I'm also much more confident about my writing skills, and cautiously optimistic that I might be able to become a published author one day. And this is thanks to all of your support, of course. I'm not one to praise lightly or ingenuously, and so I sincerely hope that the supportive comments I receive on my posts are indicative of my strengths and growth (and supahpowahhhs!) as a writer.
4. You can find--and fall in love with--books (and their respective authors) you otherwise would've never picked up. Case study: the lovely author Lauren Mechling contacted me early in the fall of 2009, asking if I'd be interested in reviewing a book of hers that was coming out in January 2010. She had read my review policy (hallelujah! someone who did thorough research before contacting me!) and knew that I don't really like cute and fluffy books about, ahem, bitchy teenagers, but that she was hoping I'd give her and her only slightly cute and fluffy book a try.
I am SO glad I did. I was delighted by both Dream Girl and Dream Life and now I just want Lauren to publish MOARRR BOOOOOOKS. It's an extraordinary feeling when you get to prove yourself wrong.
5. Getting to talk to and befriend authors. Carrying over from the last point, Lauren and I now send each other random emails every once in a while, just to say hi, because, um, we can! I feel truly blessed to know each and every author I have gotten to know. I may not be head over heels in love with their books all the time, but they are such wonderful people, and I like that there can be this separation between author and book, when once (when I was younger) they were like the same thing to me, and authors were like intimidating celebrities who, like, lived in mansions, wrote with gold-tipped fountain pens or on typewriters, and didn't do "human" things, like eat, or poop. Probably.
6. You can spread your passions. You can do it in extremely silly (but still ultimately satisfying) ways, like convincing your blogger friends to pick up a book that you rave about 365 days a year, and having them become as equally evangelical about the book as you are (i.e. when Meg picked up Robin Brande's Fat Cat at my recommendation, and it was love forever and ever, both between blogger-book and blogger-blogger).
Or you can do it in a powerful and awe-inspiring way, such as how blogger Harmony of Harmony Book Reviews started PAYA to increase awareness of and attention to YA lit in Pennsylvanian libraries, all the more important now because of our huge statewide public library budget cuts. I have only ever dreamed of doing something like this, and it amazes me that there are extremely talented people out there who can make my vague daydreams a reality.
7. It helps me be more attuned to my communication strengths and weaknesses. What I've learned about me in social situations: I communicate best through writing. I'm better in one-on-one conversations than group talks. When lots of people are talking, I clam up, get this look on my face like I'm either falling asleep or horrified, and try to extricate myself as subtly as possible. I like talking about books, but I don't like talking to other book lovers who feel the need to go on and on in LOUD VOICES about how they've already read EVERY book you bring up. For your entertainment, an example:
Me: "You like YA books too? Cool! Have you read this book by debut novelist Lauren Oliver? It's called Before I F--"
Them: "BEFORE I FALL OMIGOD OMIGOD YES I READ IT I LOVE IT SO MUCH I RECOMMEND IT TO EVERYONE I KNOW."
Me: "Oh. Um. Awesome! *looks at bookstore's display table* Oh, look. They have Incarceron on displ--"
Them: "OOOOOOH I JUST READ THAT ONE, LIKE, LAST NIGHT IT WAS SO GOOD I COULDN'T PUT IT DOWN I LOST SO MUCH SLEEP OVER IT ISN'T IT CREEEEPY AND JUST LIKE SO SO GOOD."
Me: "Okay. Well. Um. I'm gonna go eat more food now. Bye!"
(Unfortunately this actually happened to me.)
But more on book people annoyances--and my own social oddities--another time. The point is, I'm beginning to know what works for me, and what doesn't. And I learn from my embarrassingly awkward moments at author signings and try to be more myself next time. I'm hoping I can bring all these revelations with me to BEA so that I don't end up being overwhelmed and hating humanity and myself by the end of the day. (Sorry, did I mention that I'm about as introverted as introverts can get? You should see my Myers-Briggs personality test score.)
8. I discover new things to love outside of books. One phrase: Khy and Glee. Thank you.
9. Every day, I learn five new things. Why five? I dunno. It could be another number if you'd like. All I'm saying is that I learn so many things through blogging, and in so many areas. In writing up posts, I practice my writing skills. In organizing blog tours for Traveling to Teens, I learn what does and doesn't work for publicity and email organization. In reading others' reviews, I am able to figure out the things I pay attention to in reviews. And just reading many, many books alone, I add every day to my mental list of things I like and dislike about YA lit, and what I think I'll focus on doing in my own WIPs.
Blogging has been the greatest "class" I've ever taken, on a "subject" that's hardly present in formal education, and my fellow bloggers are the best teachers.
I'm sure I could go on for longer but I'm going to stop before I hit double digits and then go, well, I'm not that far from triple digits now, why don't I just go on? Anyway, even writing this post has put me in a good mood. You see the power that you guys have? Now why don't you join in the celebration over at Adele's blog?
Happy YA Community Thanksgiving, everyone!