Friday, July 31, 2009

BlogHer'09: I think this about wraps it up...

(I'm sure y'all HOPE so, anyway! Next week should be a return to as close to "normal" as it ever gets around here. Thanks for putting up with my public processing of the BlogHer experience!)

BlogHer's organizers have asked for feedback on the conference. Rather than subject you to the ridiculously long comment I left there, I'll just give you the link, and you can read the whole discussion over there if you like (it's pages long), and add your two cents - or six paragraphs - if you were in Chicago and haven't already weighed in. If you were at BlogHer'09, and/or you're considering BlogHer'10, it's worth checking out the post and the comments. One good idea - and one thing that would really make me think about going back next year - is a programming track focused on writing and technique:
One thing that definitely would bring me back is a writing/technique track. The Geek Labs were my favorite sessions, and it would be great to see a corresponding emphasis on content and craft. I heard the statement that "writing well isn't enough any more"* for bloggers, but I think that a lot of us still care about what we put out there and want to make it better.
(*Thanks to Megan of Velveteen Mind for commenting on Wednesday's post to clarify that statement, which quoted her.)

If you read yesterday's post, you already know where I stand on this:
My biggest disappointment about BlogHer was the lack of a presence by my own community - book bloggers. There was little at the conference geared to us (although the bookstore and signing sessions were great), but I don't think you had any reason to offer it, since we weren't showing up. I'm starting a personal campaign to make book bloggers more aware of BlogHer.com and BlogHer's conferences, because I think we have a lot to offer one another and I want to see this change. (Note: So does Sassymonkey.)
I do want to shout out to the bookish bloggers I did get to meet, though. I already mentioned meeting TexasRed, Sassymonkey, and Beatrice; there was also Janelle of Brimful Curiosities, who focuses on kid-lit. In addition, I met a couple of reading enthusiasts (and sometime reviewers) whose blogs I've been reading for awhile, Vanessa of Chefdruck Musings (who was also a BlogHer'09 liveblogger) and Liz Rizzo from Everyday Goddess.
I'm a mom with a blog, but not a "mommyblogger" per se (one adult child, one teen, one ten-year-old, and two of the three are my stepchildren), and the mom-centricity of a lot of the marketing was uncomfortable for me too, because it seemed aimed at one particular subset of mothers. We don't all fit there.
I met Carol Lynn from Pop and Ice at lunch on Friday, when we shared a "Birds of a Feather" table for "Moms of Teens and Older" - the less-than-typical mom bloggers. We ran into each other again in the hotel lobby on Friday night, when neither of us was heading to a party, and chatted over drinks in the bar instead.

I mentioned my take on the party scene in Wednesday's post:
Conferences are tough on introverts - or for this particular introvert, at any rate. Conferences with a high degree of extra-curricular socializing surrounding them are particularly tough, especially when you're attending them for the first time, on your own, and haven't really pre-arranged to meet up with anyone. Extra-curricular socializing in venues that don't encourage genuine conversation - like noisy, poorly-lit cocktail parties - is especially challenging. I opted out of a lot of it, and bailed early on some of it. I have learned to respect my limits, and sometimes I just needed to back off and head somewhere to read.
One of the parties I ducked out of early was my own Silicon Valley Moms Group "Moms Night Out" on Thursday, for its contributing bloggers who came to Chicago for BlogHer'09 - as more people arrived, it just got too noisy and crowded for me. Someone - I couldn't read her nametag - told me I looked lost and asked me a couple of times if I was looking for someone. I was, I guess - anyone who looked friendly and wasn't engaged in a conversation, but there was too much going on to hear what anyone was saying anyway. I was glad to catch up with fellow LA Moms Elise, Yvonne, and Liz at the party, though. I ran into Jessica Gottlieb at O'Hare Airport earlier that afternoon - we had been on the same flight from LA, and she was kind enough to offer me a ride to the conference hotel with her car and driver. (The drive was an experience, to be honest; I have no idea how we got from the airport to the hotel, but I'm glad nothing was maimed in the process.)

Magpie called me a "perfect roommate" in her own BlogHer recap, and I would say the same thing about her.

Despite being a first-timer, I did work up the nerve to go up and introduce myself to a few bloggers whom I've been reading for a long time, because I feel like I've gotten to know them. Getting enthusiastic greetings and hugs from PunditMom, Susan Wagner, and Veronica - who knew me, thanks to commenting and linking to them - was one of the things that makes BlogHer BlogHer. (What would really make BlogHer BlogHer would be posting the pictures here - but I don't have any. I only took pictures when I slipped away from the conference hotel to walk around the neighborhood.)

I didn't make it to Anna Lefler and company's Saturday afternoon humor-bloggers panel, but I popped in after it was over to say hi (Anna was one of the original LA Moms Blog contributors, and we met about a year ago at a potluck get-together). I hadn't managed to see her around the conference, but as it turned out, we were booked on the same flight back to LA. We also share some anal-retentive tendencies; like me, Anna had already checked in online for her flight and printed her boarding pass, and she likes to get to the airport early. We arranged to share a cab to the airport, and had plenty of time for coffee and chat once we got there - plus a stop at Barbara's Bookstore in Concourse H, which Anna suspects was once a Waterstone's, and which has a pretty wide selection for a bookstore in an airport. If you think I left there empty-handed, you clearly don't know me too well; I bought The House on Fortune Street by Margot Livesey and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Steig Larsson.

The theme of BlogHer'09 was "In Real Life." I don't know whether I told Mike that or not, but that's what he titled his post about our meeting for lunch on Saturday (where he also talks about his parking-garage adventure). We've become good online friends in the past year and a half, and it would have been weird to be in Chicagoland and not meet in person, so I'm really glad we were able to work it out! We had wanted to plan it as dinner with him and his wife Jenn, but since he has the world's most insane work schedule, it was lunch - and then he went to work. We had a good time talking, though - and since I want to visit Chicago again (next time with Tall Paul, and without a conference), I hope it will be repeated then.

There's no way to mention everyone I met and saw at BlogHer'09, even though I'm sure I didn't meet nearly as many people as some other attendees did. I've still got a stack of blogger business cards to sort through, which will probably lead to new people to follow on Twitter and blogs to list and link in the "New in Google Reader" section of the Weekend Review (which will probably not be back till next weekend, by the way...all of this BlogHer post-mortem has meant I haven't read too many blog posts about anything else this week!).

And by the way, I'm officially off the fence about BlogHer'10; I registered yesterday. If I'm on a mission to get more book bloggers there, it seemed like I should go ahead and make the commitment myself!

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Thursday, July 30, 2009

Book Blog(H)ers, we need to talk...

...because we didn't get to do that at the BlogHer'09 Conference!

I mentioned in my BlogHer Bullet Points that
book blogging doesn't even begin to show up on the BlogHer conference radar, and I think this is a big mistake. I pitched a "Room of Your Own" session for book bloggers - it didn't get the votes. We couldn't even get a dedicated table at one of the "Birds of a Feather" lunches. BlogHer is a conference focused on women bloggers, and an awful lot of women are blogging about books - and influencing readers and book buyers. We're worth more notice than being lumped in with "entertainment" or "review" bloggers, although we do review (and, hopefully, we entertain). I think there's a vicious circle going on here, unfortunately - book bloggers won't come to general conferences like BlogHer if they don't feel that there's something meaningful there for them, but if they don't come to the conferences, the organizers won't consider them in program planning.
Sassymonkey, one of the very few book bloggers I met at BlogHer'09, and who also happens to be BlogHer.com's Contributing Editor for books, responded to that point:
I don't think that book bloggers aren't on BlogHer's radar. I mean, I'm saying this as someone who writes about the books blogosphere for them and has for the past three years. They are aware of the book bloggers. Absolutely. But...if we can only name four of us that were there should they really have a book blogger Room of Our Own? Books and blogs (or books to blogs) have been covered in some form at BlogHer the last few years. The only way that there will be a dedicated session on book blogging is we bring all our friends and demand it. It's what the mommybloggers did. I keep saying that book bloggers could learn a lot from mommybloggers and this is one of those areas. They showed up and stood on their chairs and said, Hey! What about us? We're here! I'm not saying we shouldn't have a Room Of Our Own session at all, I'm saying we need to bring the numbers to it.
On a related note, Sheri from A Novel Menagerie said:
You know, I really don't understand BlogHer. It would be good if you did a post explaining what it was and how it works. I know that they aren't accepting advertisers/bloggers any more (it's closed or something like that). But, it would be neat to understand this more.
Sassymonkey is right - book bloggers are on the radar of BlogHer.com, the website. But they're not a presence at the conference, and she's also right that if we want to be a factor in the programming, we need to become a presence first. If I'd realized how little a space we seem to be occupying on BlogHer.com, and how few of us were planning on going to the conference, I'd never have proposed a Book Blogger "Room of Your Own" program in the first place. The lack of book bloggers at BlogHer was one of my biggest disappointments - and if we're not there, why should they notice us? But as I said in my bullet-point item, I think that it's a mistake for both book bloggers and BlogHer not to pay attention to each other.

BlogHer.com's Blog Directory lists 1200 blogs in the "entertainment and books" category - is yours one of them? Why should it be?
"BlogHer's mission is to create opportunities for women who blog to pursue exposure, education, community and economic empowerment. Today BlogHer is the leading participatory news, entertainment and information network for women online. We invite you to join us to gain additional exposure for your blogs and your ideas -- and you can even start your first blog here with us if you like. With more than 38,000 members and 18,000 blogs on our blog list, we're all working together to create a community that is fun, informative and supportive."
If you're a woman with a blog, regardless of its focus, this is a community you really should consider joining. As a member for over two years, I've learned a lot and participated in some great online discussions, and cross-linking posts there has helped drive traffic here. It costs you nothing to join, and in order to have the chance to attend BlogHer's conferences and join its advertising/publishing network (which periodically opens to new member blogs), you have to belong to BlogHer.com.

BlogHer.com's content spans a wide spectrum of topics and interests, and its conference programming does too. Regardless of your blog's topic or focus, it's a great resource for growing and improving your blog, and also an excellent source for finding new blogs and information about almost any topic that interests you - including books.

I love it when book bloggers have the chance to participate in book-centric events like BEA, and I am eagerly anticipating taking in the L.A. Times Festival of Books with other California book bloggers again next spring. But I'm not sure we should restrict ourselves to only the bookish - it's a big blogiverse out there, with lots of opportunity. I'd love to see us playing a role in more general events like BlogHer . The food bloggers and craft bloggers and humor bloggers were there, and they were recognized - why shouldn't the book bloggers be, too? But we have to start by getting ourselves noticed - "bringing the numbers," as Sassymonkey put it. Book Blogger Appreciation Week is coming up, and that's a time when we recognize each other - I'd love to see us recognized outside of our own community as well, and participating in BlogHer is one way we can make that happen. I hope you'll join me there...and maybe we can join each other in New York City for BlogHer'10!
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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

My BlogHer'09: Yes, it actually WAS a conference!

I went off to Chicago for BlogHer'09 knowing I was not going to be a party animal. While there's certainly no shortage of parties surrounding the conference, a conference is what it is. Some attendees have noted that it's changing; as it's grown bigger and bigger, there seems to be more emphasis on various forms of marketing than on blog-building and writing, but since this was my first time, I can't say much about that. I can confirm that there IS a lot of emphasis on various forms of marketing, as distinct from community-building, and that I heard several statements along the lines of "it's not enough to write well any more," but I can't speak to how that compares with prior years.

In any case, my intent in going was conferencing. I reviewed the agenda carefully before I left for Chicago, and planned the sessions I wanted to go to. In some cases, they were tough choices - with at least a half-dozen talks on a number of interesting topics in every time slot, there were times when I had to pick my priorities, and hope to hear about the sessions I missed from other bloggers who made different choices than I did. I managed to attend sessions from almost every programming track, and there was something worthwhile in every one of them.

My favorite sessions were the three Geek Labs I went to, and they were the most genuinely useful as well. I attended back-to-back Labs on basic HTML and Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), and I now feel like I have a slightly higher comfort level that I know what I'm looking at when I make tweaks to my blog template! I learned that there are three basic elements to a web page:
HTML - content
CSS - style (how the content appears)
JavaScript - action (what the content does)
As it turned out, I already did know how to use some of the most basic HTML, but I'm less fearful of moving beyond that now. CSS is still a bit intimidating, but our presenter pointed Firefox users to the Web Developer Toolbar add-on, which can tell you all kinds of useful things about any web page, and help you understand what you're looking at.

I also attended a statistics Lab, and it wasn't quite what I expected. The focus was largely on using your stats for revenue projections; the analysis and formulas we learned were interesting, but I was hoping for more discussion on understanding blog stats, period, with perhaps some recommendations on which stats programs were most useful. Google Analytics is a favorite, even though it's not real-time, because it can tell you so much about your site's traffic and usage; it's also not specific to one blog platform, so it's more widely applicable and accepted. I already have it, and I learned a few things that I think will make it even more useful for me. However, if you wanted some definitive answers regarding why different stat counters tell you different things, which is the most reliable, and the meaning of subscribers vs. hits vs. pageviews - which I did want, kind of - they weren't on offer.

All of the Geek Lab sessions were only 30 minutes long, and I wish there had been more time in every one of them; I feel like I got a nice taste of each topic, but they left me wanting more. On the other hand, I guess that can be considered inspiring. I have more detailed notes on each of the sessions - if you'd like a copy of any, just e-mail me at 3.rsblog AT Gmail DOT com.

The best discussion I attended was at a panel in the Leadership programming track, "What is 'Pro-Woman' in a Post-Palin World?" From the official conference agenda:
2008 was a volatile year for women in the public eye. Not just for those women, but for all women as we watched them in action and the reaction to them. BlogHer.com featured substantive, weighty and (mostly) civil conversations that dug up ongoing questions that dog all of us that consider ourselves “Pro-Woman”:

How do we address the rift between many women of color and the perception of the mainstream feminist movement? Can pro-choice and pro-life women find common “pro-woman” ground? If we believe that women are true thought leaders and change agents for the world and that women’s leadership is more important than ever in turbulent times, how do we reconcile this with the fact that women certainly do not all agree?! What does it mean to be “pro-woman” when woman are anything but a monolithic bloc who think…or vote the same?

Join the conversation to answer all these questions and more. Dedicated feminist Danielle HendersonEmily Zanotti, liberal feminist blogger Veronica Arreola, and conservative Fausta Wertz, who blogs about Latin American politics, news and current events. Join them to discuss what it means to be Pro-Woman in today's world.
moderates this conversation with conservative libertarian blogger
The panel, and the audience participation, touched on nearly every question mentioned above in a session not intended to arrive at definitive answers, but to foster conversation among holders of many different viewpoints. I think it was successful. I do stray into the political around here at times, I don't apologize for calling myself a feminist, and I was engaged throughout the session. The disagreements, when they happened, were civil, and I heard sensible opinions - that is, they made sense to me, even if I didn't agree with them - from all the represented areas on the political spectrum. This was a session I attended not just because I was interested in the content, but also to meet one of the panelists - I've been reading Veronica's various blogs for a long time, and it was great to get a chance to speak with her, however briefly, and get her autograph on the issue of Ms. Magazine in which she's featured.

There was some good food for thought in a panel on the Identity/Passions track, "Enough About You - Who's Reading You?" This conversation touched on blogging to build friendships and/or community and how it's like - and unlike - developing a fan base for your blog; shifting the focus of your writing in accordance to what readers do, and don't, respond to was another big topic. The subject of openness came up as several people talked about blog stalkers, and perspectives on blogging authentically and the blogger/reader relationship were offered and shared.

I attended the first session in the MommyBlogging track, "Have You Found Your MommyBlogging Tribe?" because I really felt like my answer was "no" - and after the panel, it still is. I'm a mom who blogs, and who contributes to a group blog with other moms, but I've never felt like the "mommy-blogger" label fits me, and as its definition shifts and seems to narrow in focus due to its growing popularity with marketers, it seems even less right for me. I agree that it's necessary to put yourself out into the blogiverse to bring readers back to you - I comment, I link, I participate in group activities, and most of you who've been around here for awhile know all that already. But I also write here, and I care about what and how I write - and the bloggers I want to know about and read are the ones who care about the writing too. This panel was the first place I heard the "writing well isn't enough" comment (from a blogger who I think writes very well, and who didn't seem to enjoy saying it either), which I really wish wasn't true, but as far as evaluating popularity in the blogiverse, it just might be.

In any case, I continue to feel on the fringes of the "mommybloggers", and to feel that my "tribe" is among those - moms and everyone else - who blog about books and popular culture and everyday life. I like having interests that cross genres and topics and tribal boundaries. But my sense of online community is rooted among the book bloggers, who were in very short supply at BlogHer (and unless that's addressed with programming, I fear that's unlikely to change). Here are two of the three besides myself that I know were there, in a photo I'm borrowing from TexasRed:

TexasRed is on the left at one of the few moments she wasn't wearing her cowboy hat, and Sassymonkey is in red. We're just missing Beatrice from My Kingdom for a Book.

I heard about some other good sessions that I'm sorry I missed. The conference experience depends on what you make of it, and BlogHer'09 provided lots of good program material to work with; I was quite satisfied with my choices of how to use it, and it was well worth the time.
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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Ten Items (More or Less): BlogHer Bullet Points

If I were to link to all the BlogHer'09 recap posts out there - and you know I'd do that; I've done it before, when I haven't even been there myself - I would never get any of my own impressions about it written up to share. There are a few things I'll mention here that I'll expand on in subsequent posts, but I thought I'd start the ball rolling with some BlogHer Bullet Points.

The BlogHer 2009 Conference is Held in Chicago

(not my photo - thanks to BlogHer PicApp)
  • Conferences are tough on introverts - or for this particular introvert, at any rate. Conferences with a high degree of extra-curricular socializing surrounding them are particularly tough, especially when you're attending them for the first time, on your own, and haven't really pre-arranged to meet up with anyone. Extra-curricular socializing in venues that don't encourage genuine conversation - like noisy, poorly-lit cocktail parties - is especially challenging. I opted out of a lot of it, and bailed early on some of it. I have learned to respect my limits, and sometimes I just needed to back off and head somewhere to read.
  • But if one of the attractions of a conference for you is collecting freebies (I just don't like the word "swag"), the really impressive, big-ticket stuff is more likely to be at the parties. The BlogHer conference itself has many sponsors, of course, and they had plenty of stuff to give away in goodie bags and in the Expo Hall (which was rather like a small-scale trade show), but some of what was at the parties - especially a few of the RSVP-required sponsored events - was truly worth coveting. Or so I heard. I wasn't at most of them. I have no complaints about what I decided to bring back home, however, and my favorite souvenir wasn't a swag item at all - after hearing her speak on a panel, I got Veronica of Viva la Feminista to autograph an issue of Ms. Magazine in which she's featured.
  • Despite not being a big partier, I did meet some pretty cool people - I (mostly) wasn't a hermit, and I actually did go up and introduce myself to a few bloggers, in addition to Veronica, whom I've been reading for a long time. I wasn't going to pass up the chance to say hello to these impressive women, and was quite gratified to learn that they knew who I was, too! (Commenting and linking, y'all - people do notice it, and it has benefits!)
  • Even more gratifying, if slightly weird - bloggers who made the effort to seek out and meet me! (Yeah, a few people actually did that. After nearly two and a half years in the blogiverse, it is very nice to learn you've made an impression.)
  • Being active online has actually helped me become a bit more outgoing in person, I've noticed, but I'm still not great at party small talk, chit-chat, and quickie "networking" activities. I like to be able to have actual conversations with people, and that did happen, but not as much as I might have liked. It was good to have the opportunity to get to know my roommate, Magpie, better, and spend some time with some of my fellow Moms Blog contributors, who came from all over. More name- and link-dropping to come later this week...
  • There were some pretty good conversations outside the conference, too. After well over a year of reading and frequently commenting on each other's blogs, it was a lot of fun to go off-campus on Saturday and meet Mike for lunch on his home turf (I thanked his wife @JennChi on Twitter for loaning him out, and I'm sorry I didn't get to meet her too! Mike has already blogged about our meeting). And if you ever have to kill a couple of hours waiting around in an airport, you cannot have better company than Anna Lefler (Beth Kephart, you have permission to be envious :-D). She can't stay away from bookstores either.
  • Speaking of bookstores and reading, this trip gave me a fine opportunity to get to know my Kindle. I am officially in love with it, and almost halfway through reading Admission by Jean Hanff Korelitz on it.
  • I was lucky enough to meet up with fellow book-centric bloggers Sassymonkey, TexasRed, and Beatrice, who all were subjected to my Kindle praises. If you're a book-focused blogger who was there and I didn't get to meet you, please leave me a comment here to say hello - and I'm very sorry I missed you!
  • OK, though, enough about all the people for a minute...this was a conference, right? What about the programming content? I'll discuss that in a post of its own in another day or two, but in short, I felt that I attended a pretty good sampling of sessions and panels from across the board, and got something worthwhile from every one of them (even if I didn't exactly like what I heard - there seems to be pretty strong sentiment that good writing isn't really enough to draw readers to a blog anymore, and that makes me just a bit sad).
  • As far as content goes, though...book bloggers and BlogHer planners, we need to talk, because book blogging doesn't even to show up on the BlogHer conference radar, and I think this is a big mistake. I pitched a "Room of Your Own" session for book bloggers - it didn't get the votes. We couldn't even get a dedicated table at one of the "Birds of a Feather" lunches. BlogHer is a conference focused on women bloggers, and an awful lot of women are blogging about books - and influencing readers and book buyers. We're worth more notice than being lumped in with "entertainment" or "review" bloggers, although we do review (and, hopefully, we entertain). I think there's a vicious circle going on here, unfortunately - book bloggers won't come to general conferences like BlogHer if they don't feel that there's something meaningful there for them, but if they don't come to the conferences, the organizers won't consider them in program planning. 
  • BlogHer'10 has already been announced and opened for registration. I'm not sure I'll be going.

More to come in the next couple of days...and if you have any specific questions about BlogHer'09 that you're wondering about, please leave them in the comments, and I'll do my best to address them!

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Monday, July 27, 2009

A placeholder to let you know I'm back! (Did you miss me?)

I missed y'all! Unless I actually had the chance to see you in Chicago, that is...

This week will probably NOT be a return to regularly-scheduled programming...we'll probably be easing back into that over the next couple of weeks. I'll need some time to catch up with your blogs for the Weekend Review and TBIF, and I've got quite a bit to share with you about the BlogHer'09 experience. It will probably take a few posts to talk about it all, so be prepared (or warned)! There will be some name-dropping, of course - although here in the blogiverse, we like to call it "linky love." Besides that, though, there are things I learned and things that made me think, and I hope you'll find them interesting t00.

It was a busy and worthwhile weekend, but it's good to be home! More to come tomorrow...

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Alias (Weekend Assignment #276)

This post has nothing to do with one of my favorite TV shows ever (well, the first two seasons of it, anyway).

Karen's assignment this week is inspired by Facebook, where her friends list features such "real" names as "Aperson" and "Crazyknight":
Weekend Assignment: #276: Create an alias for yourself - not one you're already using or planning to use, but a temporary one for this assignment. Tell us the name you've chosen and why, and under what circumstances, real or imaginary, you'd ever use a fake name or identity. If you want to create an entire fake identity for your entry, so much the better!

Extra Credit: Have you ever used a pseudonym anywhere other than online?
I actually use a pseudonym regularly, although technically it's not a pseudonym. I always give my name as Elizabeth (my middle name) at Starbucks, because spelling out Florinda gets really old. (Actually, it's spelled like it sounds and it sounds like it's spelled, but still, people have always had trouble with it...maybe that's more because it's unusual than because it's a difficult name, but I've never known for sure.) I've used screen names in a few online forums in the past, but during the last few years, I've almost always been online under my real name. I never intended to blog under a pseudonym, because if I ever want it to lead to anything, it all has to come together as part of the body of my written work.

I think online life actually makes using a false identity more complicated, because it's easier to be unmasked than it was in the pre-Internet days, and I think it's viewed with more suspicion now.

But having said all that, let me introduce you to Heather Brooke. Heather has lived her entire life in the area around Atlanta, Georgia, except for the five years she spent up north for college - and which convinced her without a doubt that she'll always be a Southern girl. She was introduced to her husband Steve when they were both participants in a mutual friend's wedding. They have a son, a daughter (both school-age), and a black-and-brown mixed-breed dog named Fred. Heather works part-time at the public library and volunteers in her kids' school library - she loves spending time around books, but rarely finds herself with time to read for fun. Since she's at the school so much, she knows most of the teachers pretty well and has become the go-to person for inside information about them for other parents. Other than that, her social life mostly involves her extended family and a neighborhood gardening group.

I've always liked the names "Heather" and "Brooke," and neither of them fits me very well as myself, but I'd try them on if I were going to try being someone different for a little while. It's hard for me to see myself carrying off any sort of false identity for any length of time, though, to be honest. However, I can see some usefulness in using one in a social situation where you're pretty sure you're only going to be around this particular group of people once - who'll know if you're being honest or not, and if you'll never see them again anyway, why not be someone else for a few hours? However, unless you have successfully cultivated a different online identity already, it would be counter-productive to try being someone other than yourself at an event like a blogging conference.

If you have an alias or pseudonym other than your online name - or if your online name is a pseudonym but no one realizes it - I invite you to unmask in the comments!

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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The post where I talk about going to BlogHer'09

I'll Be Hiding in a Corner
I'll be glad to make room and share the corner, though.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that anyone with a blog and plans to attend a conference must write a post prior to said conference discussing her hopes, plans, and fears surrounding her attendance at the event. This is mine.

Too early on Thursday morning, I'm boarding a plane at LAX headed for Chicago, a city I've never visited before and probably won't get to see very much of during the few days I'll be there. They'll be filled with activities related toBlogHer'09, this year's edition of an annual blogging conference for women (and a few men) organized by BlogHer.com, which I'll be attending for the very first time. There will be presentations, panel discussions, instructional sessions, informal conversation and networking, and parties. LOTS of parties. (And even more parties that are private or semi-private, so they're not on the official party lists.) My attendance was generously sponsored by my mother-in-law.

I'm trying not to think too much about the parties. I've got a couple of invitations, and may stop by some a few of the public ones, but I really don't know. I'm not good in big crowds where it's hard to talk (it's part of the introvert thing), I don't drink much, and unless I can go in knowing I'll have some people to hang around with, I'm not sure I'll be brave enough to cross the threshold. And although I certainly hope I'll meet people, right now I'm not really prepared with names and times and places to do it. I don't feel as closely connected with bloggers from my area as I'd hoped to be by now - no one's fault, but I've missed a lot of off-line opportunities with them, and our paths around the blogiverse don't seem to cross as much lately. And I haven't come across too many book bloggers who have mentioned that they'll be going. In any case, I guess I'll be winging a lot of the social stuff - and that makes me nervous. Nearly all of my anxiety about this weekend has to do with socializing, since I'm not the most adept at doing it in person. I'm definitely one of those people who is more outgoing online - offline, I'm much more comfortable when I'm prepared for meeting people.
I can prepare for some things, though. I started getting things ready for packing last night, and since I'm starting my vacation on Wednesday, I can pack my bags without too much rushing. I arrive in Chicago early Thursday afternoon, so I hope to have plenty of time to find my way to the hotel, meet my roommate, and relax before a pre-conference get-together with fellow Moms Blog contributors from all over the country (and Canada, too!). Also, registration check-in opens on Thursday evening, so I'll probably try to take care of that then...you know, so I'll be prepared for Friday. I've put all of the sessions that interest me on my calendar - and though it wasn't premeditated, I've got something in there from almost every program track, so I should get a well-rounded experience during the conference days. It's the after-hours stuff on Friday and Saturday that I'm really not prepared for right now - so at this point I'm prepared to be a wallflower, or to be surprised by who I meet and what happens. And perhaps I'll be slipping away from the conference on Saturday evening and meeting up with a Chicagoland friend of the blog.

There's lots of talk about all the goodies that people will bring back from the conference, but I'll be leaving a few things behind. I've accidentally ended up with duplicate copies of a couple of review books, and I also have a few I never requested; I'll be bringing those with me to leave in undisclosed locations around the conference center, hoping they'll be found by willing readers! (I may not officially BookCross any more, but I still believe in it.) Of course, I will also be bringing a couple of books to read, and my Kindle - I'll need something to do during my flights (and all those times I'm not socializing).

I'm not sure yet if I'll have a post up this Thursday (I hope so, but it's not ready yet), but TBIF and the Weekend Review are getting this week off, and I may not have a new post here next week before Tuesday. My laptop is coming to BlogHer'09 with me, but I don't think there will be much time for drafting posts or blog-hopping while I'm there, so I apologize in advance for being a missing person around here for a few days!

If you'll be at BlogHer'09, I hope I won't miss meeting you! Please - even, or especially, if you've never commented here before - leave a comment to let me know you'll be there, and hopefully we'll find each other!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Monday Book Talk: "Perfect Life," by Jessica Shattuck

I received an Advance Reader's Copy (ARC) of this book for review through LibraryThing's Early Reviewers Program.

Perfect Life: A Novel by Jessica Shattuck

Perfect Life: A Novel
Jessica Shattuck
W.W. Norton & Co., 2009 (hardcover) (ISBN 0393069508 / 9780393069501)
Fiction, 336 pages

First sentence: Later, after everything, after Neil had come and gone from their everyday lives, Laura had a memory of that other time, a million years ago, it seemed, when they had all been college students, living in that cushy, all-American holding pen for almost-adults, reading books and being cooked for, drinking five nights a week, and worrying over nothing more than term papers and social gaffes.

Book description: Two years ago, Neil Banks walked into a bathroom in the Pacific Fertility Center to provide his former college girlfriend, Jenny Callahan, with the biological material needed to conceive a child. Becoming a father was not part of the deal: adrift in his postmodern Los Angeles lifestyle, he signed away all paternity rights. But on the day of the baby's christening, Neil turns up at the church. His unexpected - and unauthorized - return to Jenny's privileged East Coast world sends a shockwave through the families of Jenny and her two college roommates - and sets off this deeply funny and keenly observed novel about fertility, love, and American excess.

Comments: No one's life is perfect, no matter how hard they try to make it so, although some do succeed in making their lives look perfect from the outside. Former college roommates and long-time friends Jenny, Laura, and Elise all seem to be doing quite well. Laura has a successful husband and is a stay-at-home mom to their two young daughters; Jenny has a thriving career, a new baby boy, and a pending move to the suburbs; and Elise is engaged with her scientific research and her own family.

Jenny's baby was conceived with donor sperm, due to her husband's infertility, from a chosen donor - their old college friend Neil, an ex-boyfriend of hers whose life has gone adrift since he abandoned his doctoral dissertation. Elise's twin boys had similar origins, but from a different source, and are the biological children of her partner Chrissy. Chrissy is seeking out her children's biological half-siblings from the donor, and Elise, a biologist, is conflicted over her efforts. Meanwhile, Neil has chosen to violate the agreement that he made with Jenny - that he'd have no contact with any child produced from his donation - and has secretly returned to Boston.

One of the central themes in Perfect Life is played out through those storylines - what defines a parent? How much of a role does biology play, and without a biological connection, can parent and child be truly bonded? What about when biology is the only connection? Does a person have to have a family to have a happy, "perfect" life...and is that happiness deserved? What might people be willing to do to get the happiness they deserve?

There are some good questions here, and Jessica Shattuck's exploration of them kept me reading, but ultimately I felt that it fell short. I thought the material was good, but it seemed underdeveloped, and that was a bit disappointing. There were quite a few good scenes, but others really didn't seem to lead anywhere. The characters didn't feel fully fleshed out.  I think Laura came the closest, and also found her the most likable; but considering how much of the story revolves around Jenny, I didn't think I really knew her well enough. "Sketchy" was the word that came to mind; the novel was like a series of related sketches, and I wish it had been more filled in, filled out, and connected. Perfect Life isn't quite a perfect novel, though - I think it doesn't quite live up to its potential. Having said that, I do think there's a lot of good discussion material here for a book group, and I'd read other novels by Jessica Shattuck.


If you have read and reviewed this book, please leave your link in comments or e-mail me at 3.rsblog AT GMail DOT com, and I'll edit this review to include it!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Weekend Review, 7/18/09

Random updates
This blog was recently honored with an award by the awesome Sheri (I've met her, and it's true!) of A Novel Menagerie:
“The Humane Award is to honor certain bloggers that are kindhearted individuals. They regularly take part in my blog and always leave the sweetest comments. If it wasn’t for them, my site would just be an ordinary book review blog. Their blogs are also amazing and are tastefully done on a daily basis. This award is to thank them for their growing friendships through the blog world.”
I sure hope I live up to this one - and I'd like to share it with all of my "regulars." Thank you so much, Sheri!

Newbies in my Google Reader
Pop Discourse
Dispatches from across the blogiverse

I've been kicking around a post like this, but someone's already done it: welcome to California, the Formerly-Golden State, where the budget crunch grows and the quality of life declines every day

Some dads deserve more credit than some moms want to give them; some moms are suburban moms (and some are more at peace with it than I am)

Things learned after four years of blogging - have you found some of the same things? Also, ten remedial tips for writing excellent blog posts

The ongoing review-blog discussion: whether it's baby products, travel, tech, or books, it's about relationship and relevance

Good grief, it's almost here! Ten commandments (well, pieces of good advice) for BlogHer'09

What would go in your apocalypse survival kit? One nerd fills hers

"Rated R For Reality" (Parent of the Week, NYC Division), via Not Always Right
Comic Book Store | New York, NY, USA
(A customer comes up to the register with three under 5-year-old kids with a “Watchmen” graphic novel.)
Me: “Hi! So have you seen Watchmen yet?”
Customer: “No, we are going right after this.”
Me: “You do know that Watchmen is a very violent movie geared towards adults, right?”
Customer: “Oh, it’s okay. We’re from the Bronx.”

Bookmarks: Reading-related reading

It's hard to judge a book (or the person who's reading it) by its cover when reading on a Kindle

Some ideas for book-related posts that aren't book reviews (and congratulations to Jackie of Farm Lane Books for making the list of the Top 10 UK Book/Lit Blogs!)

Interactive reading - the future of books online?

When it comes to creating change through words,
does only nonfiction count?

Raising kids to be readers is great - now,
if they'd just admit it...

I've mentioned that I'm not really a library user. Now I feel justified - I'd hate to encounter these
Awful Library Books! (Thanks to The Betty and Boo Chronicles for finding this one!)

Have a great weekend, y'all!

Friday, July 17, 2009

TBIF: Thank book/blog it's Friday!

BOOKKEEPING: The Reading Status Report

Book reviews posted this week: All We Ever Wanted Was Everything, by Janelle Brown (with book discussion at Bookworm with a View)

Reviews soon to come:
Perfect Life by Jessica Shattuck (ARC via LibraryThing Early Reviewers - publication date August 3, 2009)
The Last Bridge by Teri Coyne (ARC via LT ER - publication date July 28, 2009)
Wife of the Gods: A Novel by Kwei Quartey (for TLC Books Tours in August)

New additions to the LibraryThing "To Read" collection:
The Weight of Silence: A Novel, by Heather Gudenkauf, for an upcoming TLC Book Tour
(This one arrived in Thursday's mail, just in time - I was about to report "NONE" in this space.)

Thanks for the Reviews! Books that I've noticed on other blogs this week:
The Year of the Flood, by Margaret Atwood (ARC review)
The Opposite of Love, by Julie Buxbaum
Harry, A History, by Melissa Anelli (Harry who?)
Gang Leader for a Day: A Rogue Sociologist Takes to the Streets, by Sudhir Venkatesh
Julia's Kitchen Wisdom: Essential Techniques and Recipes from a Lifetime of Cooking, by Julia Child

Random bookery:

BBAW (Book Blogger Appreciation Week) 2009 has been officially announced! The dates are September 14-18, and award nominations opened this week (they will remain open until August 15)**. If you blog about books and reading at all - even if they're not your primary topics - join in the fun, and register to participate!

If you missed last year's event, or your blog has been born since then, here's a little background:
Book Blogger Appreciation Week was started by Amy Riley of My Friend Amy in an effort 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.

WHY? Because books matter.  In a world full of options, the people talking about books pour hard work, time, energy, and money into creating a community around the written word. 

Anyone who blogs about books is invited to participate.  In fact, we want everyone who blogs about books and reading to be a part of this week! Let's come together to celebrate the contribution and hard work of book bloggers in promoting a culture of literacy, connecting readers to books and authors, and recognizing the best among us with the Second Annual BBAW Awards.  There will be special guest posts, daily blogging themes, and giveaways.
** I've seen mention on some other blogs about award voting being open - not yet! This is the nomination stage ONLY - submit your picks in any or all of the award categories. The final slate for voting will be compiled in late August:
BBAW Award Nominations will be open until August 15, 2009.  At that time, the nominees will be shortlisted by a preselected panel.  Nominees will be asked to submit their best content for review by the panel.  Final voting will begin in September.

(Please enter the URL of the blog you are nominating and not the name as many blogs have similar names.)
Anyone - book blogger, or blog reader - can submit nominations. If you'd like to nominate this blog for any awards, the URL is www.3rsblog.com :-).

Tuesday Thingers, hosted at Wendi's Book Corner: "Tag!! You're It"

This week, Wendi shares her last little bit of wisdom remotely Library Thing related from her Seattle Blogger/Author/Publicist get-together:

We actually talked about the Early Reviewers program, and one lucky attendee shared a piece of advice. She told me that the more you tag your books, the more likely you are to snag a similar Early Reviewer book! For example - if it is a historical fiction book, and you have a bunch of historical fiction tagged within your library, you are more likely to get chosen.

Now, I don't actually know if this is true, but the attendee we spoke with seemed to be having a lot of luck snagging review copies! SO. . .

Questions: Do you tag? If so, do you tag for your own purposes (make lists, sort, clouds, etc)? Do you tag to help classify a book (historical fiction, self-help, sci-fi, mystery, etc)? What is the most helpful thing for you about tagging?

My Answer: Here are my tags, and how many times each of them has been used (so far):

LT's recent introduction of collections may change my tagging habits, since they duplicate some of the tags I've been using. Most of the books in my library have at least two tags, one for status
(to be read, currently reading, read) and one for genre (fiction, memoir, history, etc.). Many, although not all, have a tag indicating whether I have the book in my possession (on my shelves) or not (given away or donated) - I find that information useful, so I'd like to get those tags associated with all of the books if I get some time to work on it.

I've tried not to let my tagging system get too detailed or complicated, but I have added some tags that help me identify special characteristics of certain books, like review copy or autographed. I like the fact that you can sort your books based on tags, but I haven't figured out whether you can search on a tag combination ("read"+"memoir", for example), which might occasionally be useful. I like being able to assign multiple tags and the fact that tags aren't mutually exclusive. I sometimes wish the genre tags were standardized across LT, but on the other hand, it's good to be able to tag my books any way I want, as long as it makes sense to me.

If tags do play a role in determining who gets Early Reviewers books, that may explain why most of the books I've received have been general fiction or memoirs.

Booking Through Thursday: "TBR, Part II"

btt button
Follow-up to last week’s question:
Do you keep all your unread books together, like books in a waiting room? Or are they scattered throughout your shelves, mingling like party-goers waiting for the host to come along?
Yes and no.

I keep most of my not-yet-read books together, segregated by shelf from books I've read, unless I'm getting low on space - then they may mix it up a bit, until I get the chance to move things around. I keep review books on an end-table shelf and don't put them in one of the bookcases, so they don't go "out of sight, out of mind." I keep books that I intend to read "soon" - meaning any time in the next few months - in a couple of stacks on my nightstand.

It's been several years since I began giving away most books after I read them, so most of the ones in the house right now are books I've yet to read - so much potential, so much promise! (It also means that the "keepers" are extra-special.)

Friday Fill-ins#133


1. Cereal and milk make a quick and easy dinner (but I've been pretty good this week and haven't indulged in it!)

2. Perfect Life by Jessica Shattuck is the book I'm reading right now (and was reading last week, too - this week hasn't been quite as generous with the book time!)

3. July brings back memories of when my son was born (25 years and one week ago).

4. The punchline of that joke was obvious.

5. They say if you tell your dreams it will help you remember them.

6. I won't do it if I stop first to think it over.

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to nothing planned, tomorrow my plans include seeing where the day takes me (besides Starbucks, Target, and the grocery store) and Sunday, I want to see Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (we already have our tickets!), followed by lunch at Octopus!

And after the weekend...two days of work, one day off to get ready for BlogHer'09, three days in Chicago, three days off to recover from BlogHer'09, and two days of work. Not a bad way to wrap up the month!