Tag Archives: BBAW

Sunday Salon: A Belated Moment of Blogger Appreciation

Last week was Book Blogger Appreciation Week. A longstanding event that sets out to

“recognize the hard work and contribution of book bloggers to the promotion and preservation of a literate culture actively engaged in discussing books, authors, and a lifestyle of reading.”

Unfortunately, this past week was unexpectedly busy for me and I was unable to participate in the event. I spent most of my week traveling through the Netherlands to make sure I participated in all the introductory events for my PhD that I had to participate in. The upcoming week will see me having to go on an actual camp of two days, but after that I hope my life will be a little quieter again.

Anyway, the reason I am writing this post is that I feel terrible for missing out on BBAW. Especially at a time when blogging is in such desperate need of appreciation instead of division. From the little that I’ve seen this week, BBAW has managed to provide just that. Without the awards (and I’m one of the bloggers who’s grateful the awards were not a part of this year’s celebrations), and with a definite focus on community, I’ve noticed that a lot of bloggers seem to feel refreshed after having participated last week. I even had the joy of opening my Google Reader (which I’ve sadly neglected these past months) and see some old favourite bloggers trying to return to blogging. My day started with a wonderful smile on my face. I think we should all give Amy a virtual hug for pulling off a wonderful edition of BBAW this year.

Like last year, I won’t be singling out any specific bloggers. But I do want to make some brief remarks on blogging in general.

I think this past year, more than ever, showed me how important blogging has become in my life. Last year hasn’t been the easiest year for me, and blogging really helped me pull through some of the rough patches. First, there is the talk about books, of course. The sharing of your thoughts, the reading of other people’s thoughts about a book, and the element of having stimulating discussions about books, reading, literacy, representations, gender, race, and everything else have been one of the highlights of blogging for me. After finishing my master dissertation in December I honestly missed academic reflection on issues and books, and blogging in part helped fill that gap for me.

Even more so, blogging allowed me to feel I could accomplish something even if it’s something as miniscule as posting something every few days and hoping that some people might like what you say. I know it sounds like a small thing: reading a book, writing a blog posts, having a fruitful discussion in the comment section – but it’s been one of the few things that allowed me to feel accomplished despite the rejection letters for applications that came in. I do know that this may sound puzzling to those who haven’t blogged themselves, or a little loser-ish, but the book blogging community has been one of the most stimulating and fulfilling places to be in the past year. And I’m sure other bloggers understand that feeling.

Most of all, in the past year I’ve found that the wonderful thing about book blogging is that, besides talking about the books you read and the opinions you do or do not share on them, true friendships can blossom from reading each others words on each others blogs every week. And that the discussions on books can grow into something more and expand into other areas of life. It is a wonderful experience to find emails or DMs in your inbox when you wake up in the morning, knowing that there are people out there thinking of you or sympathising with what you’ve mentioned on your blog. (I know I haven’t always been the fastest with replying to these messages, and this is one of the things I’ll be working on this year). Even more wonderful is having had the chance to meet some of these very bloggers in real life and finding out how wonderful they are in person (even if I remained shy and awkward through most of these meetings). It makes me even more sorry to know that I’m unlikely to get to meet most of you in person. Sometimes it makes me wonder if there should be something like a Skype channel for all of us to visit and talk to each other..

I will always be the queen of sentimentality – and this post is no exception –  but I do feel that this needed to be said. In a year that was marked by tensions in the blogging community and its relationship to the world at large, I often felt that I had lost a little piece of my safe haven. But at the same time, my blog and all of your blogs became a bit more of a safe haven for me. Yes, I do sound very sentimental, but I truly wish to thank all of you for that.

The Sunday Salon: September 9, 2012

This weekend I have been enjoying my spare time after finishing my very first work week. The getting up early, the talking to former teachers, the meeting of colleagues, and the start of my project all went a lot easier than I expected beforehand (but then we all know I like to expect the worst and worry about it endlessly). Overall, I am a happy Iris now that I am finally able to start working on the project I have wanted to work on for so long.

However, this first work week also taught me that when you spend 40 hours a week reading about theoretical models, you really don’t feel like doing much reading once you’ve come home, prepared a meal, and did some small domestic stuff. So I have a feeling that from now on the weekends will see me luxuriate in reading, while my evenings might be spent on the couch hopefully spending some time with the boyfriend.

It’s not that I am not reading though, it’s just that there seem to be a max of 20-50 pages at night (depending on how easily sleep will come, which depends on how many serious meetings that I am nervous about will occur on the following day).

This week finds me -surprisingly- finishing 4 books, most of which have been read between Friday evening and Sunday morning, though I had already been reading two of them for quite a while. Reviews of all books will follow, but they might take a while to appear (I have to0 many books read and too little days in a week to publish posts, or, you know, write them):

  • Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson was a book I was both excited and hesitant about, and that estimation seems about right to summarise how I felt about it in general;
  • Blackwood by Gwenda Bond (for RIPVII) was unfortunately a disappointment;
  • Coraline by Neil Gaiman (for RIPVII) was both wonderful and surprisingly scary for a children’d book;
  • Maybe This Time by Alois Hotschnig (for RIPVII) was a short story collection I have mixed feelings about.

I spent most of Saturday catching up on Cloud Atlas for the buddy read I’m undertaking with Jessica, Amy, and Heather. (Discussion to follow tomorrow). Sitting down and reading 4 sections in a row worked out surprisingly well. After being behind for some weeks, I’m having trouble not reading ahead now, actually.

Last, I wanted to point out two events that are coming up and that I’m excited about.

First, starting on Monday there’s another year of Book Blogger Appreciation Week. This year, Amy has organised it a little more small-scale, without the awards, and I think that might just be perfect for where the book blogging world is at right now. Unfortunately, I am not sure if I will get any posts typed up, and I might not be able to comment on blogs during my work days, but I do urge you to check out the event.

Second, Aarti is hosting A More Diverse Universe Blogtour from 23 to 29 September. As Aarti explains:

“For one week in September (the week of the 23rd), we want ALL OF YOU fantasy/sci fi/magical realism readers (with blogs and without) to read a fantasy/sci fi/magical realism novel written by a person of color.  And to write a review of that book.  You know as well as I do that books succeed based on word of mouth and mentions and conversation, and this is where bloggers can help the MOST.  Just read one book.  And share your thoughts on that one book.”

I hope to join in by reading my first Salman Rushdie book “Haroun and the Sea of Stories”. Unfortunately, I had a very limited choice of books as almost all of the suggested books were unfindable in my local library. Really, Rushdie’s collection is the only available option I have found up to date. I guess this in itself illustrates how important Aarti’s initiative is. Want to find out more? Or join Aarti and over 50 other bloggers? Check out more details on her blog.

What was your first week of September like? Did you read any good books? And will you be participating in BBAW and/or AMDU?

Interview With In Spring The Dawn’s Nat

A few days ago I saw a tweet from Nat who said she forgot to sign up for the BBAW interview swap. I forgot too, and we soon decided to do a last-minute interview with each other. You can read the first part of the interview here, and then click over to In Spring it is the Dawn for the second part of the interview.

***

NAT: Thanks for offering to do an interview with me at the last minute. :)
So, an easy one to start, how long have you been blogging now?

IRIS: Thank you too :) I have been blogging for a little over 1,5 years. It still feels like I am a new blogger, but I guess it is about time to let go of that label.

NAT: I never seem to find enough time to blog, or read, as much as I’d like to these days. How do you juggle blogging and reading with writing your thesis?

IRIS: Hah, that is a good question. I hardly know myself. If I were wise, I would put my blog on hold for the upcoming 2 months, to concentrate solely on my thesis, but I find it hard to do so. Blogging is an escape, at the moment, for when things become too stressful. When my arm starts to hurt from typing and using the mouse after a day of working on my thesis, cuddling up on the couch with a book I enjoy feels like a true break. When I cannot think of the right formulation to use in my thesis, I sometimes surprise myself by finding a word that might just fit in a random book I’m reading at that time. I know this isn’t perfect, and I really wish I had Ana’s (thingsmeanalot.com) strength to close down my blog for a month or so. I realise that both my blog and my thesis would benefit from such a decision, since I am always juggling both and can never accomplish all I set out to do. Instead, I am trying to accept that until I finish grad school, my blog will never be as good as I want it to be. It is a struggle, and I end up feeling completely useless and frustrated at times, but I try to tell myself that blogging is a hobby and as such it shouldn’t be stressful, but should serve to be the escape from thesis-writing that I want it to be. So I have started by not posting daily anymore, but aim for 3 posts a week or so & that seems to work just fine.

In the second part of the interview, Nat talks about her love of photography. This is a picture of a Japanese maple at Tonogayato Garden, Tokyo

IRIS: How long have you been blogging? Have your blogging habits changed over the years?

NAT: I can completely relate to your struggle to balance blogging and life. And I’m not even working on a thesis! I’ve been blogging for over five years now and my blogging has changed quite a lot over that time. When I began, it was a very general blog. I basically just posted very short thoughts on the books I read (I can’t even call them reviews) and random photos from our life in Japan. As I discovered the book blogging community, I began to take part in more blogging events, and memes, and all the rest, and met many wonderful bloggers. Since most of my family and friends in real life don’t read much, it was a revelation to be able to connect with other book lovers from all over the world.

This really inspired me, and over the next couple years I blogged quite regularly and started to develop more of a focus on Japan, and Japanese literature on my blog. I now host Hello Japan!, a monthly mini-challenge related to all things Japanese, a Japanese Literature Book Group, and a Haruki Murakami Reading Challenge, among others. Of course, I still read a variety of books and genres, but it has been fun to help introduce Japan a little to those who may not be as familiar with it. Over the last year and a half or so, blogging has sometimes had to be sacrificed for things going on in real life, and I try not to let it bother me even though it does. But despite not being able to devote as much time as I’d like to it this last while, I’m happy with the way In Spring it is the Dawn has evolved, and hope it will continue to do so.

IRIS: Your blog had been nominated for best cultural book blog for its focus on Japan, congratulations! Do you feel you blog about Japan in a certain manner living there yourself while most of your visitors (I think?) are from other parts of the world? Do you think it will affect your blog once you decide to move to another country?

NAT: Thank you! I feel quite honoured, and really quite thrilled to have been nominated in the first place, and then to make it onto the short list. Your blog was nominated for Best Eclectic Book Blog. Congratulations to you too!

That’s an interesting question, and you’re right. As far as I know, most of the people who read my blog are from other parts of the world. Some of my regular readers do have an interest in Japan already but I like to think I try to describe things in a way that even people who aren’t familiar with Japan will be able to understand. Of course, I don’t only blog about Japan and Japanese literature so you don’t have to be a Japanophile to follow along.

How my blog will change once we leave Japan is something I have been thinking about lately since we most likely will be moving next year. I’ll always have a connection to Japan though through my husband, and Japanese food and culture will always be a part of our life. On the book side of things there are still many many contemporary and classic Japanese books and authors I’d like to read, and I can read those wherever we live. So I actually don’t think it will change my blog too much, and a little distance might even be a good thing. I will miss the cherry blossoms though.

Cherry blossoms falling into the Chidorigafuchi moat on the grounds of the Imperial Palace

IRIS: How does living in Japan affect the technicalities of blogging? Personally, being from the Netherlands I feel I am outside that most active community of publisher-blogger relations, for example, so I can imagine that living in Japan it might feel like that even more.

NAT: I know what you mean. I feel that way too sometimes. Living in Japan does limit my opportunities for review copies as many publishers aren’t able, or willing, to ship books overseas. But I really appreciate the publishers and authors that do, and I’ve loved working with them. Now that e-galleys are becoming more popular, through sites like Netgalley, it is becoming less of an issue. Review copies aside, the wonderful thing about the Internet is that it doesn’t matter where in the world you are. Anyone can start a book blog!

IRIS: The international atmosphere in blogging is one of the key things I love about it. What is your favourite and least favourite part of book blogging in general?

Hmmm. My favourite part of book blogging is the community and being able to “meet” so many awesome people from all over the world that share my love of books. Book bloggers in particular are generally very friendly and welcoming. There are many people who I’ve met online through blogging that I now consider friends.

My least favourite aspect of book blogging is probably the competitiveness that sometimes exists. Or the “scandals” that sometimes pop up. But I generally just avoid those. For me blogging is about having fun chatting about books. I’m not really interested in debating the right or wrong way to blog or whatever other hot button issue people are getting riled up about.

NAT: I think one of the downsides of book blogging, depending how you look at it, is hearing about so many books that you then end up buying. My poor wallet! I know you put yourself on a book-buying “hiatus” recently. How is it going?

IRIS: I agree. Since I started blogging, I realised that there are simply too many good books out there. Books that blogging only makes me want to read more. So yes, it worsens the problems book lovers generally already have in two ways: getting to know more books & an enhancement of the urge to read them all – at least that is how it works for me. Putting myself on a book buying ban was a self-conscious decision to try and put a stop to a never ending circle in which I would put too many books on my wishlist, binge when I even allowed myself the option to browse the bookdepository, etcetera. The book buying ban is going well so far (but I have only been on it for a month). I did buy one book, but it was the one book I made an exception for in advance: a biography in pictures of Astrid Lindgren’s life. My boyfriend sought it out by himself, knowing how much I like Lindgren’s books, but the edition he found was in a less-than-perfect state and so we agreed to buy it together when & if we came across a better copy. We did this weekend, which is why I “broke” the book-buying ban.

NAT: I think that’s a perfectly good reason to break your ban.

Ever since the big earthquake and tsunami in March this year, I have a small emergency bag packed and ready to go. So I got to thinking that if I could only take one book with me, which one should it be. I ended up deciding to take my copy of Haruki Murakami’s Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World because it’s definitely the kind of book that would keep me entertained, and that could be reread, if I really was stuck without anything else.
So, what would your one book be?

IRIS: These kinds of questions are always so impossible to answer! I wish I could make a cleverly thought out decision, but I cannot really. I think I would choose Pride and Prejudice, because I fell so hard for this book when I first read it. And when I reread it nowadays, I can practically dream what comes next – which may proof difficult if I really could only read one book. But nonetheless, I find it hard to ignore the first book that suggests itself to my mind, and that will always be Pride and Prejudice.

***

Click here to read the second part of the interview. I would highly recommend you to do so even if you do not care for blogger interviews. Nat’s blog is wonderful.

Book Blogger Appreciation Week: Community

I have long been in doubt if I should write this post, or any of the ones that will follow during the course of this week. My personal deliberations about the posts in the upcoming days will be discussed when the time comes. For today, it has to do with how self-conscious I feel about blogging relationships ever since the BBAW awards ceremony commenced. First, I want to say that I very much appreciate the efforts of the organisers. Amy is among my favourite bloggers. But I do feel awards can lead to disappointment, and the last few weeks while I was on twitter I have seen numerous tweets that exclaim disappointment on not being nominated, feeling no one remembered them, or on not making the short list. I was among one of the bloggers who did not make the short list, and I was disappointed. Not so much for not making the short list – all bloggers on the short list for best eclectic book blog are amazing & do a much better job than me. For me, it was the realisation that you put yourself in a vulnerable position when you accept a nomination: you allow your blog posts to be judged by other bloggers on their quality compared to other blogs. This means taking a risk. And then, thinking about it, I realised that in a way, this is what we bloggers do all the time: we put our thoughts out there, sometimes very private thoughts, always part of our personality how ever much we try not to let it shine through (depending on the sort of blogger you want to be), to be commented on by other bloggers, to be either liked or disliked by readers, to acquire thousands of followers or perhaps only a handful – but all people who like your blog enough to click the follow button.

So here’s the thing: in a week that should be about community, should I really single out certain bloggers, knowing I will always forget a few? Should I risk the chance of (perhaps) hurting their feelings when in the weeks before this one, there has been some division and hurt already over the process of award selection? I have a lists of blogs special to me. I could write it up – no problem. And I know that this may be the safest environment to do so – in a week when everyone will acknowledge a blog special to them. So, any imbalance may be resolved. I feel weird not acknowledging those I want to acknowledge. But I feel self-conscious doing so as well. So there you have it – I just don’t know who to mention and who to leave out. Basically, I want to thank each and every one of you. For having the courage to post each day. For persevering even after feeling a little left out at times. For making conscious decisions to quit blogging because it does not feel right for you anymore (I miss you every day while I respect your decision). For being there. For posting, for talking books, for friendships and friendly discussions and teaching each other.

This year, I will not feature any specific bloggers. I simply feel too self-conscious about it. But I do hope you know who you are. And that, even if we have never met before – I am sure we can find something to appreciate in each other.

BBAW: Future Treasures, or “I loved Book Blogger Appreciation Week”

I never wrote my Future Treasures posts for BBAW this Friday, so instead I’m doing so now. I loved Book Blogger Appreciation Week and especially the community feeling of it all. I never expected it to be so great. It was very easy to go and “meet” new blogs and bloggers all of a sudden. I do wish it could be as easy for the rest of the year. I added lots of blogs to my reader & I have no clue how to keep up with all of them yet, but we’ll see.

As for my solutions for next year, I really admire all bloggers that came up with a whole list of them, but I don’t think I can. You see, I know there are inevitably going to be periods in which I cannot post due to study-stress and then I know that I could plan ahead and think of all these fantastic features, but really, ideas like that have to come to me all of a sudden and not because I’d like to write down some resolutions. However, what I would like to do more this year is comment. Frances said that she loved my thoughtful comments because they showed that I really read the posts she wrote and that made me think, because I feel I should comment a lot more. Lately I have been rather absent from the blogosphere and I do wish I could change that. However, with all of these new blogs added to my list it is going to be hard to keep up with that. But it’s a resolution, and they are only there to try to act better, not to suddenly become the perfect blogger, right?

I do have an idea for a feature, but I find it incredibly hard to find the courage to email people to be part of it. Also, I am not sure if it has been done already and I do not want to look like a copy cat..

In the mean time, I would love for you to recommend me any book you think I should read here..