There is a difference between being conceptually aware that there is a lot of book bloggers and being in the midst of them. Realizing that this large group of bloggers was really just a small portion of the total gave me a good feeling. Remembering the first Book Blogger Appreciation Week that Amy coordinated (which I loved and still have the best memories of), the group has really grown.
I did not participate in the breakfast program. I took the opportunity to meet Candace from Beth Fish Reads and Florinda from The 3 R’s Blog in person. As with so many of the people I met in New York who I knew previously online, it was as if we’d known each other forever. I really love it when you can slip into easy conversation with someone like that.
Jennifer Wiener Keynote
As we were getting ready to head to the larger meeting room, Jennifer Weiner walked in with her team. She was very pleasant and immediately introduced herself to us. While I’ve read and understand people’s thoughts and concerns about her keynote address, I enjoyed it for what it was. I didn’t take it anywhere near as seriously as other people did. She began with a joke about her bra showing and that set the tone for me. I’m glad I made the choice to go into her speech with an open mind. Admittedly, it took me a while from the announcement to get to that point. Here are my thoughts about the speech:
- Oprah. I know there has been a lot of discussion about this portion of Jennifer Weiner’s keynote. It never occurred to me that she meant that to be taken literally. I took it entirely tongue in cheek. What Weiner was pointing out was that Oprah wanted to have and foster a conversation about books with her audience. Prior to that, there wasn’t a public discussion of books on such a large scale. Book bloggers have similar goals. Yes, we write critical and thoughtful reviews about the books we read, but so many of us started because we love to read and we like to connect with others who feel the same way.
- Weiner did recap her history with the New York Times. Most of that was new to me because I haven’t followed Weiner’s career. Still, I could see it inching it’s way toward Franzenfreude, something that I had been dreading. Luckily that episode was little more than a bullet point. I’ve thought about that section of her speech a great deal since I’ve gotten back from New York. The more I think about it, the more I found it useful as a story. In many ways, book bloggers are constantly having to prove our relevance and fight for our place in the industry. Weiner may not be a book blogger, but she has faced what she sees as similar struggles. I appreciated how she handled her missteps and the bias of others with humor. She does not back down nor does she change who she is or what she does to fit in. I respect her for that.
- What I took away from Jennifer Weiner’s keynote was that doing what you love publicly has its joys, but that it also opens you up to criticism. It happened to Oprah and it happened to her. You need to be prepared for those less than stellar moments in your blogging career. Most importantly, you need to keep your ultimate goals in mind so that you can stand up in the face of adversity and continue to move forward.
Immediately following Jennifer Weiner’s speech was chaotic. People wanted to talk to Jennifer and have their books signed and pictures taken. The first panel didn’t begin on time as a result. It happened after the panels as well. We wanted to talk about what was just discussed. In the future I hope that time is either built in for continued discussion or that discussion is encouraged and facilitated by creating space away from the next panel.
Blogging Today: What you need to know and what’s next
This was a vibrant and varied panel. In addition to Candace Levy from Beth Fish Reads, the panel consisted of Erica Barmash from HarperCollins, author Jen Lancaster, Zoë Triska, Associate Books Editor from Huffington Post, and Patrick Brown, Community Manager from Goodreads. I wish I had taken notes about what was said because it was an interesting discussion. One of the highlights of the day came after the panel. I thanked Jen Lancaster for writing about larger women. After talking for a minute, she told me that I looked cute. That definitely made me feel good.
Although I did eat lunch in the large room, I didn’t sit at one of the numbered tables, so I didn’t get to participate with any of the authors. I had wanted to get to talk to Erika Robuck, the author of the upcoming Hemingway’s Girl. She is one of the nicest people you’ll find on Twitter and she noticed me in line for taxis outside of Penn Station when I first arrived in town.
Although I was interested in the panel about monetizing, I chose instead to attend the Critical Reviews panel. The speakers were Barbara Hoffert from Library Journal, Janice Harayda from One Minute Book Reviews, Florinda Vasquez from the 3 R’s Blog, and Mark Fowler, Attorney & Blogger, Rights of Writers. I enjoyed this panel. I appreciated what they had to say about writing thoughtful reviews, whether you enjoyed the book or not. Florinda made good observations about keeping your review policies up to date (on my To Do List). I also found the conversation about legal concerns interesting. I don’t lie awake at night worrying about potential lawsuits. Still, it’s always a good idea to think carefully about what you’re posting to the world. While authors and books were cited by the panel, I would also include other bloggers to that list.
Creating Community & Driving Engagement
The last panel I attended just happened to be the one I moderated. The speakers were Mandy Boles from The Well-Read Wife, David Lee King, Digital Services Director at Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library and Stacey O’Neale, Senior Publicist at Month9Books. I wished we had gotten off to a faster start, but once we hit our stride, I think we did quite well. We addressed both good practices as well as our personal failures. For me, that was the best part of the panel and there was a lot of laughter. I will leave the analysis of the event to those who attended, but I hope that they enjoyed it and found at least one useful tip.
After my panel came the closing remarks from Jenny Lawson, The Bloggess. I had started listening to the audiobook of her memoir, Let’s Pretend Nothing Happened, before I came to BEA. She narrated it herself and I wasn’t sure how I felt about that. The way she spoke at the conference was exactly the way that she narrated the book. For that alone, I’m grateful for the experience. It made the audiobook make sense. I also appreciated how she spoke about her experience working on the audiobook. At one point, when she’s sure she can’t finish it, she called Neil Gaiman. His advice? “Pretend you’re good at it.” That is something I’ve thought about every day since. I didn’t stay until the end but I’m hoping that when Trish and I snuck out to go to the BEA Editor Buzz panel she didn’t call us out. LOL!
This has absolutely nothing to do with the conference, but I feel that I must point out here that later that night, Neil Gaiman held the door for me and Xe Sands as we walked into the hotel hosting the party thrown by Tantor Audio. You should have seen the expression on my face as I mumbled thank you and heard me squee with delight when I thought he couldn’t hear me. I had a total fangirl moment. Be forewarned that I’ll feel compelled to discuss this 5 second occurrence once again when I write my post about the audiobook time of my life later this month.
Although I had my misgivings about the conference in the months leading up to the event, I feel as though I went into it with an open mind. I tried to take as much of it as possible at face value. It was very much like other conferences I’ve attended for work. I came away with a few things I’d like to try and, in this way it was better than most of the other conferences I attended, it had a keynote address that didn’t put me to sleep.
I agree with others that the conference was geared toward new bloggers. Although I would have liked something more challenging, I’m not sure that a conference like that is the proper venue. I also look at it as a way to give back to others. There have been so many times in my 5 and a half years where I needed guidance and support from other bloggers. Without that, I would have stopped blogging years ago. That there is an event like this for those getting started is a good thing.
There was a “what bloggers can do for publishers” feel to the event. While I knew to expect it going in and did my best to ignore it, I couldn’t avoid it completely. Others have done a good job highlighting this in the programming, so I won’t reiterate that here. What I’ll mention were a number of people in attendance who were not book bloggers or speakers. One of the first people I ran into was an author. Based on interactions with her that I observed, I’m almost certain she was self-published. She was not one of the authors taking part in the breakfast or lunch events. I think I know why she attended, I don’t know how it was that she was able to attend. I didn’t come to this event to get pitched in person by those authors I do not consider for review any other way. There were also publicists and other industry professionals as well. I enjoyed meeting those I’ve worked with before, but I wonder if a vendor area would have been more appropriate? There was one person who rather rudely interrupted my table at lunch and went on and on about an event with which she was involved without so much as asking us if we were interested. Again, I’m not sure how she was able to gain entrance to the event at all.
What I loved the most ab0ut this event was meeting bloggers, both those I’ve known for ages online and those I had the opportunity to meet for the very first time. They are the people who truly made the day special. I am glad to have had the opportunity. I would attend another BEA Bloggers Convention, but I don’t think it’s an event I would be likely to attend every year.