About eight months ago (the exact date is vague because I prevaricated, unsure about how the hell to actually start) I wrote my first blog post, a review of Maggie O’Farrell’s This Must Be The Place. The book itself wasn’t significant (although I enjoyed it a good deal) but I guess the timing was. I’d been looking for something satisfying to do whilst having a break from working full time. I’d really missed talking about books with my students (I’d really enjoyed an online creative writing course that I’d completed but I had worked out that, whilst I can do details and I’m ok for a paragraph or two, I really cannot do plot). And I’d had two early miscarriages which, as these things do, had rocked my equilibrium and left me needing mental distraction. And so, camping in a field in Wales with some very old friends last August, I mulled over the idea of a blog called Books and Wine Gums. I’ve eaten a lot of wine gums in my life – hence the name. I had no idea what I was doing, how a blog worked, or how much I would enjoy it all. Eight months, or so, down the line, here’s what I’ve learned…
- There are awesome writers out there looking for someone to review their debut novel – I’ve been so lucky to get hold of review copies of books that have become top favourites of mine, notably Rachel Malik’s Miss Boston and Miss Hargreaves and Virginia Moffatt’s Echo Hall.
- Writers, and Indie writers in particular, work so hard to promote their work so that their brilliant novels can find their readers. I am in awe of those who can write all the words, edit those same words, and see a book through to completion.
- I read differently now. I scribble notes or (and I know this will prove divisive) underline key phrases so that I will remember everything I want to draw out. The books I’ve reviewed have left far more of an impact than those I skim read beforehand.
- If I put something in a post, I have to see it through. So now I find myself a third of the way into Moby Dick, one of the novels I ‘fessed up to never having read in December’s post 5 Books I should have read by now…
- The book blogging community is a brilliantly supportive group. There are so many fab bloggers out there and I have a lot to learn from them. I was lucky to be pointed in the direction of the fantastic Book Connectors Facebook group early on. Many of the novelists in the group kindly agreed to be interviewed for my ‘An Interview with…’ series of posts.
- Twitter is another good space for all things bookish and allows me to share my reviews to a wider audience.
- Netgalley is great (lots of free books waiting to be reviewed – what could possibly go wrong?) but I obviously can’t be trusted to be sensible – I must now ignore all their tempting emails until I have cleared the backlog. I’ve also realised that I do prefer having a physical book in my hand.
- The TBR pile is a term which, despite having only come across it recently, can fill me with a slight sense of dread (see no. 9)
- I made the rookie mistake of saying ‘yes!’ to all books offered for review – I’ve now clarified my review policy and I’m learning to decline politely if I think the book is not for me.
- Lists are an excellent way of structuring blog posts 🙂
So there it is – I’ve loved the last eight months of blogging and chatting with others about books, and I’m so pleased that I’ve nearly met my target of gaining 200 followers in my first year. It really means a lot when people read my reviews, and even more so when they like or leave a nice comment. I’m so glad I took the plunge – and decided to grapple with technology. And it means I get to read, read, read, of course.