Thursday, June 3, 2010

Book Blogger Convention Recap, Chapter 2: How Maureen Johnson Got 250 New Best Friends

(I need to break my Book Blogger Convention Recap posts into several chapters posts. If you missed it, my first Book Blogger Con Recap is here.)

Before attending the Book Blogger Convention last Friday (how can it already have been a week ago?!), I had heard of keynote speaker Maureen Johnson but I didn't know much about her besides that she writes young adult novels.

Among the things I didn't know was just how funny this woman is. Maureen is the type of person who you want to be friends with - and, I'm sure I speak for others when I say that many of us probably left her speech feeling like we had just spent the past 90 minutes chatting with one of our best girlfriends.  She just has this personality of being so fun, so energetic, and just an all around cool person. She could do stand-up comedy. (On Friday, she did do stand-up comedy.)

She spoke about those who are so-called experts in the world of social media. "The world [of social media] is so new there is so little to be an expert about," she said at the beginning of her remarks.  "It's all writing."

She reminded us to go back to why we started doing this (book blogging) in the first place - most likely, because we love books, love reading, and love writing.  As a child, Maureen said, she was an avid reader and wrote stories. 

"I was an indoor kid.  Yeah, you were too," she acknowledged to the 250 book bloggers, publicists, and publishers in the audience, many of whom (myself included) could be seen smiling and nodding.  "None of us were on the kickball team." 

While that was one of the first (of many) lines that had her 250 new best friends laughing, it was Maureen's sharing of her introduction to high school that brought down the house.  Imagine walking in the door of your new Catholic high school - when you weren't Catholic - and seeing this picture of nuns being shot at.

Apologies for the quality of my photographs.  If you look very closely to the left of the painting, you can see the gunman and, to the right of the painting, the fallen nun in the ditch.  (Good Lord, I can't wait to see what search terms lead people to my blog with that description.)

Maureen described her school in such vivid terms that I thought I had actually been there - and when she shared that it was "an all-girls Catholic prep school in Philadelphia," I tweeted that I was dying to know which one she was talking about. (The answer came in the Q and A session: Nazareth Academy, the alma mater of several of my friends and one located not too far from the Philadelphia suburb where I grew up. If you happen to be reading this and were the person who asked that question, a personal thank you for being braver than me to ask it!)

Maureen spoke about her books and writing, saying that "writing is something you do by yourself but not because you want to be alone."  So true ... love that!   When interviewing writers on our blogs,  Maureen suggested that our content would be stronger by avoiding the general questions ("where do you get your ideas?") and instead, asking a question that allows the author to tell you a story.

On book bloggers, Maureen said that we are "activists for change." We've called for more diversity, as evidenced with the recent cover controversies, and placement of books.  Because of book bloggers, "stuff doesn't go unnoticed anymore," Maureen stated.  Our blogs have the power to change things of significance, such as challenges to books considered to be inappropriate, and to make them local to us.

As bloggers, "you can make just as much noise [as those challenging a book] and take [the message] wider," Maureen noted.

Blogs are also important to the marketing of a book. As we know, only a few books get a marketing budget.  Maureen recalled that the marketing plan for one of her books called for Maureen to personally buy a videocam and "make some videos."  Book bloggers, however, "can bring a book back from the abyss."

After talking for 90 minutes, Maureen Johnson undoubtedly made herself some new fans and new friends.  As book bloggers, we couldn't ask for a better friend in return.

copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.


Trisha said...

She was a wonderful speaker! I've never read her, but after that speech, she went right onto my TBR list.

Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy) said...

Same here, Trisha!

Maggie Desmond-O'Brien said...

I actually am a young adult, but had never actually read her work before - I am really looking forward to listening to her audiobook after hearing her speak! She was fantastic. My dad was the one who asked the question about *exposure* - and even when I was completely embarrassed she still managed to make me laugh. =) Thanks for this post!

Wendy said...

She was fabulous, wasn't she? Made me want to run out and buy all her books!

Jennifer, Snapshot said...

This is a great recap. She was one of the highlights of the day for me. Excellent talk.

I'm listening the audiobook Suite Scarlett that we got in our bags. It's good. I had thought it might be edgy snarky YA, but so far it's good traditional timeless sort of YA, which means my 12yo can read it too!

(Diane) bookchickdi said...

Excellent recap of Maureen's keynote. I had never read any of Maureen's books, but I do follow her on Twitter, and she is truly a funny person. She was the perfect choice to start the BBC.

Meg said...

Great recap! I really enjoyed BBC and loved hearing Maureen Johnson speak. I've read three of her books and enjoyed them all, and she was just as funny and cool in person as I anticipated! Glad you had a good time, too!

Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy) said...

Maggie ~ I LOVED that your dad brought you to the Book Blogger Con. It reminded me of when my best friend and I dragged her dad to concerts he could care less about. And his comments were pretty funny! Would have liked to have said hi to you ... I subscribe to your blog. :)

Wendy ~ I know, I want to read them too!

Jennifer, Snapshot ~ glad you're enjoying the audio; I have yet to give it a listen, but I will soon.

Diane - Definitely, a perfect choice!

Meg ~ wish I had the chance to meet you! Loved Book Blogger Con! I'm definitely there next year, if they do it again.

Kim (Sophisticated Dorkiness) said...

Great recap! I also didn't know anything about Maureen Johnson, but found her very funny. You're totally right, she seems approachable and fun and like you'd want to be her friend. I'll definitely be reading at least one of her books sometime in the future.

Booksnyc said...

I thought she was great! I think she should do some essays about her high school experiences - very funny! Will now definitely read her books even though I am not a huge YA fan (yet)!