Writer’s Block Anonymous

During my freshman year of college, I had one teacher say something to me that, for better or for worse, determined my college career. “This is a well-written piece, and I know of a small, on-campus publication that would love to print it. Have you ever thought about studying English?” The following semester, I disregarded my parents pleas to study business, and I declared a major in English. But with an Emphasis on Practical Writing. It was a compromise, you see; in case creative writing never worked out, at least I could write interoffice memos really well. And I never did submit my essay to the small, on-campus publication.  This isn’t about regret though. Not really.

Shortly after college, I stopped writing, and after I stopped writing, I stopped dreaming. I could fill up a notebook with all of my excuses, but it all boiled down to the value I placed on myself as an individual and myself as a writer, which was zilch. Aside from these sporadic blog posts, I haven’t written anything in about 4 years.

Last month, I got a new supervisor at work, and after work I stopped by her office to chit-chat. Honestly, this lady terrified me, and this was my way of testing the waters. For some reason, I mentioned that I used to love to write, but lately it’s caused me a lot of anxiety. I mentioned that fear of failure kept me from telling stories, even though I recognized this was a self-fulfilling prophecy. The next morning, she approached me and told me she ruminated over our conversation from the previous day, and it upset her that I wasn’t writing anymore. She printed out a quote and stuck it to the whiteboard in my office:

There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure. –Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

Then she told me that I need to start writing again because I’d never be satisfied otherwise. This caught me by surprise because for once, someone seemed to give a damn– someone other than my mom and dad, who have to encourage me to keep writing because they are my parents***. But, the encouragement didn’t stop there. Once a week, she asks me if I went home and wrote. She sends me encouraging words and pictures in e-mails, like the Rumi quote above. She turns accounting lessons into life lessons into reasons why I need to write.

Sometimes I forget why I write because I read articles about writing for an audience and writing for publishers and writing for money and writing for fame and writing for change. Sometimes that burden is too much because at the end of the day, most of us started writing for ourselves. Because art nourishes in a way that accounting never could. So, last weekend I wrote. On the back side of neon orange-colored printer paper. With an equally orange pen that had the perfect amount of inkiness to slide across the page with ease but without coating the side of my hand with black smudges. My hand started to cramp after just a few minutes because I haven’t written with such vigor in a long time.


 

Footnote:
*** It’s like when I was really young, I used to say I was going to be a tiger when I grew up. Or a cowboy-girl. I’m certain it was met with, “Honey, you can be anything you put your mind to”. I obviously could never become a tiger, but good parents don’t discourage big dreams. (Cowboy-girl, on the other hand, is still a potential job title that I may or may not strive for once I gain a little more work experience.)

 

Blogger Confessions: Blogging and Real Life

How does blogging affect your *real* life? Are friends and family supportive? Do you find that blogging cuts into family time? How do you strike a balance between the two?

I’m fairly open about most things, but there are two things I tend to keep a secret– my taste in music and my taste in literature.

True Story: After knowing one of my college buddies for almost four years, she out of the blue stated she had no idea who my favorite bad was, let alone my favorite type of music. We were in her car, and the doors were locked, so I figured I wouldn’t be getting out unless I told her. So, I said the first band that came to mind– Tiger Army. They’re a psychobilly band, which is kind of like a punk and rockabilly hybrid. Here is one of their tame songs if you’re curious:


But, that was a lie. Sorry Brooke.

There is something so personal about books and music that I find it difficult to share them with those that are close to me. I’m afraid they will show disdain for something that I adore, and it would be like they’re saying they didn’t like me. I’m sure that thought process is a little strange, but I’m also sure I’m not the only one who feels that way.

I also find it difficult to justify my taste in books because I studied English literature and composition in college. My friends think I have an appreciation for the Classics (suckers!). I think I’m supposed to have an appreciation for stuffy and pretentious metafiction that people with thick-rimmed glasses and tweed jackets with leather elbow patches discuss over glasses of wine from a box. But, in reality I just like young adult fiction. If you strip away their age, they’re characters who are just as confused about their place in the world as I am.

So, for the most part I keep my blog and my real life separate. As far as I know, my mom and dad are the only people “in the real world” that have my website address. And they’re pretty supportive. I wouldn’t shrivel up and die if my friends found out about Books & Tea, but I would prefer if they didn’t accidentally stumble upon my blog. I mean…unless they totally want to fangirl over Harry Potter and other YA books… I’d be cool with that.

I do struggle trying to strike a balance between blogging and “family time”. It’s like my significant other has his sixth sense tuned to my blogging urges. As soon as I sit down at my laptop and pop open WordPress, my boyfriend scrambles for the Wii remote and this happens:

Boyf.: Wanna play Metal Slug?
Me: Nope.
Boyf. Please?
Me: Nope.
Boyf.: PLEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEASE?
Me: Nope.
Boyf.: Okay okay, just one mission and you can blog for the rest of the night.
Me: *sigh* Fine.

And then, a few hours later we’ve played through all seven Metal Slug games on the Metal Slug Anthology. I feel disappointed in myself because I could have been blogging, so I have to remind myself that I used less continues than my boyfriend did.

Also, since all of my readers are wonderful and non-judgy, I feel I can share with you my favorite band. It’s AFI. And if you’ve never listened to them, here is one of their songs:

Since Books & Tea is a totally non-judgy, friend zone, if you have a favorite band, please feel free to tell me about them in the comments!

Blogger Confessions is a meme created by For What It’s Worth and Midnyte Reader.

Blogger Confessions: Not Throwing in the Towel Any Time Soon

We’ve discussed blogging slumps before but have you ever seriously considered throwing in the towel and quitting blogging? If so, what changed your mind? Did you discuss it with other bloggers?

There is something addictive about blogging. I’ve been blogging since I was 12 (note: That’s 12 years of blogging!) My blogs have mostly been of the personal variety, where I write about the things that are going on in my life. And they’ve been hosted at a variety of places like livejournal/deadjournal/xanga, blogspot, and even self-hosted back in the days when I coded my own layouts. Most of these blogs still exist. I go back and read them sometimes, and what I thought was important back then is both interesting and humiliating. I have “thrown in the towel” in the past, but that’s mostly because my personal blogs were lame. My life is average. Who wants to read about average? I think that’s why I’m trying to settle down into the niche of book blogging. Sure, my thoughts on books can be as every bit personal as a blog about my life, but I think there is more substance to book blogging than talking about the can of spaghetti-Os I ate for dinner or going to the movies with friends.

Book blogging can be a challenge for me though, and sometimes I let that get to me. I’ve said it time and time again– I’m a slow reader, so I don’t have stacks of reviews to write each week. And since I don’t participate in too many memes, it makes content creation tricky. I don’t know if what I come up with to fill the gaps in between reviews is creative or fun, but I try. This is sometimes the reason why I disappear for weeks at a time. I’m out of ideas. Or worse, I come up with an idea, write it up, and then scrap it because I think it’s garbage. I should just probably commit; I mean, it’s my blog right?

Maybe I have less to lose in blogging than others so blogging has never created enough anxiety or frustration to warrant shutting down. I don’t have many friendships within the blogosphere. Nor do I have author and publisher contacts. It’s not like I’d be letting anyone down except for me. No, I don’t think Books & Tea will shut down anytime soon. If anything, I’ll just continue to come up with different types of content that could revitalize Books & Tea and make it special.

Blogger Confessions is a meme created by For What It’s Worth and Midnyte Reader.

Blogger Confessions: Scary Stories

Happy Halloween!  Do you like to read scary books?  Why or why not?  If so, what is the scariest book you ever read and why does it deserve that honor?

When I was a pre-teen, I was obsessed with scary books. So obsessed, you see, that the word deserves to be both italicized and bolded. I seem to recall this fact making my mother uneasy. I wonder if she thought she were raising a sociopath or something. My grandmother, on the other hand, didn’t seem to mind because she supplied me with a few good horror novels during this period in my life.

Anyway, whenever I would go to the library, the only books I would pick out were the Fear Street books by R.L. Stine. I’d borrow as many as possible, because I would usually devour them in one sitting, and I needed enough of them to get me through to my next library visit. Kind of like my mother and her Harlequin Romance stories, but without the Junior Mints.

I probably got through most of the Fear Street books published, but the ones that I recall loving the most was the Fear Street: Fear Park series.

R.L. Stine's Fear Street: Fear Park

R.L. Stine’s Fear Street: Fear Park

Beginning this month is a new Fear Street trilogy that plays into teens’ love for amusement parks. A new one is coming to the Fear Street Woods, even though 60 years ago someone tried to build an amusement park in exactly the same spot, and more than a dozen kids got killed before it opened.

I’m not sure why this specific series spooked me the most, but I have to assume it had something to do with the amusement park. I’m terrified of roller coasters and the seemingly tame Ferris wheel. Gosh, this post makes me want to run to the library right now and borrow a couple of Fear Street novels! Especially since I haven’t read a horror novel in ages. I can’t really explain why. I still get urges to read a good horror novel every now and then, but I never seek them out.

Anyone have any suggestions for good horror novels?

Blogger Confessions is a meme created by Tiger’s All Consuming Books and For What It’s Worth.

Blogger Confessions: Blogger Envy

Blogger Envy: Do you have a bad case of blogger envy? Do you covet thy neighbor bloggers book hauls/follower numbers/blog design? How do you tramp down the green eyed monster?

Yes, I do in fact have blogger envy.

Book bloggers have some of the cutest, cleverest, and creativest (yea, I know that’s not a word) layouts I’ve seen. I pretty much go googley-eyed when I look at them. And as for those book hauls. They make me salivate as though I’ve got a big bag of potato chips sitting in my lap. Or chocolate cake. Or a plate of tacos. Ooh Ooh! Or a cup of sweet, iced tea!

This blog envy has never elicited any negative feelings though. Mostly because I realize most book bloggers have earned their fame and glory. There are reasons other bloggers have those things and I do not. They put significantly more time into their blogs than I do– the design, the SEO, the blogger/author/publisher relations, the promotion. They go above and beyond the call of book blogger duty. They’ve worked hard to get their blogs to look like perfection! They’ve worked hard to bring in all of those ARCS!

To every book blogger that has ever made me feel envious– Good on you! You’re doing something right.

 

Blogger Confessions is a meme created by Tiger’s All Consuming Books and For What It’s Worth.

Blogger Confessions: Blogger Relations

Blogger relations: Are there blogs you visit and comment on because you like their style, voice etc.(maybe you even converse with the blogger on Twitter & Facebook) but those comments are never reciprocated on your blog?. Do you get a bit offended or do you understand that they may be busy? Or do you comment just because you like a post not expecting anything in return?

I haven’t spent much time developing blogger relations. There are certainly a handful of bloggers that I admire for their personality, their style, their topics of discussion (see: SquidInk, Cuddlebuggery Books, the Infinite Curio, and fiktshun). But, that doesn’t necessarily mean I’m going to comment on their blogs before anyone else’s. Truth is, I do most of my reading through my Google Reader, and I have over 100 book blog subscriptions through my reader. This may or may not explain why I’m such an inconsistent blogger. Who has time for blogging when there are 1,000+ great articles to read in my feed reader?

I am one of those bloggers who loves leaving meaningful comments. I try to leave them as often as I can because well, comments make bloggers feel warm and squishy on the inside. I leave a lot of comments, but I certainly do not keep tabs on whose blog I commented on. That would just be weird. Thus, I’m not offended when they don’t respond back or when they don’t leave a comment on my blog. Yea, maybe the blogger was busy. Or maybe my recent blog post didn’t inspire them to leave an involved comment. Or maybe that blogger doesn’t like me. You like me, don’t you? Don’t you?!

I figure, I’d rather have a reader leave a comment on my blog because they appreciated what I wrote or because my words stirred something up in their mind. Not because they felt obligated to leave a comment.

Blogger Confessions is a meme created by Tiger’s All Consuming Books and For What It’s Worth.

Blogger Confessions: What Do We Owe Publishers and Authors

What do we owe publishers and authors? If we accept ARC’s do we “owe” anything to them or just an honest review to our followers? As book bloggers are we obligated to do more than just review books? Post covers – participate in book tours – host guest posts – promote authors?

I think it is important for me to preface this post by saying I don’t have publishing contacts, and I don’t utilize NetGalley, so I don’t receive copies of books specifically for review. The books I review on this blog I’ve purchased with my own money, received as birthday presents, or won from giveaways hosted by other generous book bloggers. I’m saying this because I believe it does influence my answer to this question.

Books & Tea started out and remains as a personal project to get me back into on of my favorite pastimes, reading. It was a way for me to record the books I read along with my thoughts and feelings about them (ie. reviews). So, do I feel I “owe” authors and publishers anything? No. Not really. Writing reviews is fun and rewarding. Especially if it encourages another reader to pick up a book they may not have heard of or were skeptical of. And it gives my ego a boost when an author tweets to me or leaves a comment on my blog thanking me for the review! But, I have no desire to post cover reveals (a post I usually skim over in other blogs anyway). A book tour might be fun, but I’m horrible with deadlines, so I usually avoid them. I might promote an author if I absolutely adore their work (have you read all of my Harry Potter posts?). And as for guest posts? Well, sometimes those are fun, but I don’t have the traffic to make a guest post worth while.

I’ve made the mistake of accepting an ARC or two in the past. But, again, I suck with deadlines. The blog posts got up eventually, but not as promptly as the author may have wanted, and I felt pretty bad about that. So, that’s why I don’t request or accept ARCs. At this point in my blog, I don’t want to feel obligated to read a book when I don’t feel like reading it, and I don’t want to feel obligated to write a review when I don’t feel like writing a review. Feeling obligated to read a book when I don’t really want to read a book of that genre may influence my reading experience, and that may result in a negative review. That’s not fair to the author.

I think it may be an entirely different story for bloggers who do request/accept ARCs. Especially if it’s one of their main methods of acquiring books. Writing an honest review and getting it up a week or so before a book hits the shelves is common courtesy. But, if you’re aim is to really help sell those books (that’s why you’re requesting those ARCs, right?), then I do think a blogger is obligated to put forth a little extra effort in promoting those books. I’m not sure how effective cover reveals are or the generic cover posts are. But those blog tours, those author guest posts, those creative, one-of-a-kind promotion methods are effective. But really, I think it’s up to the blogger to create a post that inspires them or a promotional method that they’re comfortable doing. Do I think bloggers who accept ARCs on a regular basis are obligated to go above and beyond for each book they review? Nope! Some books are a bust, and I wouldn’t expect someone to promote a book they simply did not like.

Blogger Confessions is a meme created by Tiger’s All Consuming Books and For What It’s Worth.

Blogger Confessions: Spoiler Alert!

Spoilers in reviews: Do you read them? Do you include them [in your reviews]? How do you describe (or avoid describing) spoilery parts of books ?

I think one of the biggest challenges of being a book blogger is deciding how much to include in the book reviews we write. There are so many times where I want to discuss a character’s deep, dark secret, or I want to gush about a certain character’s romance with another, or I want to explain how the ending totally caught me off guard. But, I refrain because I don’t want to spoil the story for other readers.

I find writing reviews about books but excluding spoilers is sometimes really difficult. This happened recently when I was writing the review for 13 Days to Midnight by Patrick Carman. I felt even the slightest bit of detail would spoil the entire book for anyone who hasn’t read it. I was too afraid to talk about the “super power” the teens use and what the power does because I thought it would spoil the story. I was too afraid to discuss who the power came from in the first place because that’s a huge twist in the story. And without discussing these two major points in the story, it was really difficult to explain anything else that happened! And, in conclusion I was left with a rather uninspiring two paragraph review…that took me nearly two hours to write because I couldn’t figure out what to say without revealing any spoilers!

I’ve often thought about including spoilers in my reviews, but “whiting out” the text. That way, I don’t actually spoil the story for people who haven’t read it yet. But, those who have already read the story can highlight the text to read my thoughts on the events. I think the latter can create some interesting, bookish discussion between those who have already read the books. What do you think of this technique? Useful or useless? I worry that my webpage doesn’t load the same way for each viewer, so what if the spoiler text accidentally shows up?

As for spoilers in other people’s reviews…sometimes I read them if they’re offered– especially if it’s a book I don’t think I’ll read. Sometimes I don’t read the spoilers because I know I will read the book, and I’m afraid the spoilers will ruin my reading experience. Sometimes reviewers will include spoilers in a review without realizing it, and honestly I’m not bothered by it. I won’t show up in their comments section with a pitchfork and sneering, “How dare you ruin the book for me!” Sometimes after accidentally reading a spoiler I’ll want to read the book even more! But, I guess it really depends on the book. Like, if it’s a book that’s super hyped up, I don’t want to read any spoilers. If it’s a book that’s flying low on the radar, I don’t mind a spoiler or two.

Blogger Confessions is a meme created by Tiger’s All Consuming Books and For What It’s Worth.

Blogger Confessions: Getting over the Slump

Have you ever had reading/blogging slumps? How do you work through them or work around them?

I’ve definitely experienced both, and unfortunately the two feed into each other. Toward the tail end of last year I experienced a blogging slump. I think there were about four or five books that I had read, but I didn’t blog about right away because my computer time was limited. Then, so long would pass that I would kind of forget about my thoughts on the books that I read. This discouraged me to write reviews even more. Oddly, I started feeling guilty about starting new books during this period because I figured I would just forget my thoughts on the book before I had time to blog about them.

Even though I wasn’t able to spend enough time on the computer typing up my thoughts, I eventually dragged out one of my journals and handwrote the reviews, and I would post them later. That allowed me to start reading again without fear of forgetting everything. Of course, now I have my own internet connection, so I don’t need to worry about not being able to get my thoughts out in a timely manner.

Blogger Confessions is a meme created by Tiger’s All Consuming Books and For What It’s Worth.

Blogger Confessions: Ch-ch-ch-changes

How has the “job” of book blogging changed your reading habits? Both pro and con.

Pro: For starters, book blogging has helped me rekindle my love for reading. I’ve always been a reader, but during college I pushed reading for enjoyment to the side. Since graduation and since starting this blog, I’ve read more than I ever had before. Also, in order to keep cranking out posts, I’ve incorporated reading into my everyday routine. I try to read at least every day, even if it’s just a few pages at a time (like during my breaks at work).

Because of book blogging, I also reflect more on what I read than ever before. Afterward, I sit down and think about how well I really connected with characters or would I want to visit the world the author created or does this author inspire me to write because the prose is so beautiful. This was not something I ever did in the past, but I think it helps me appreciate the books even more.

Cons: I’m not a very fast reader. Sometimes it will take me over a week to finish one book, and this makes me feel insecure in a community where people easily finish entire books in one sitting. I wish I could read faster/not get distracted so easily so I could post as often as other bloggers.

Blogger Confessions is a meme created by Tiger’s All Consuming Books and For What It’s Worth.