Wednesday, June 29, 2011

6 Things That I'm Currently WTFed About


1. That Newsweek cover.

At this point, I'm half-expecting Tina Brown to trot over to merry old England and exhume Princess Diana's body. I'm serious.  After that cover and then the "what Diana's Facebook page would be like" and whatnot, this is just a cheap and callous attempt (and it's working, 'cause - hullo! - I wouldn't have a blog post today without it) to sell magazines.  I'm also reacting to this as someone who has lost a parent at a young age, as the Princes William and Harry unfortunately did. It's just heartless, disrespectful, and cold.  People should boycott the purchase of this issue ... but they won't.


2. That KIA ad.

I speak of the sordid ad touting the benefits of KIA's dual-climate control system that somehow got confused with a PSA for child molestation. Peggy Orenstein (she of Cinderella Ate My Daughter, which I am currently reading and enjoying) has covered this one in great detail, even receiving a response from the KIA powers-that-be, who claimed to be unawares that the ad even existed ... yet, it managed to receive a Silver Lion Cannes Award.  (On the panel awarding the skeevy ad the award? The head of Mattel. Yeah.)

KIA already has a tarnished image with me. A friend's KIA burst into flames with her and her two adorable girls inside (fortunately, all are fine) but just hearing her tell the story, including KIA's shoulder-shrugging "oh well, shit happens" response to the incident, makes me think that this ad is just another way KIA is spinning its wheels ... or, more appropriately, Kovering Its Ass.

3. That TSA diaper-change.

Stop me if you've heard this one before.  At this point, incidents involving the TSA are like a bad version of Mad Libs.  "Today, TSA officials at _________ [name of airport] in __________ [name of city]  forced a ______ [adjective, such as "disabled," "infirm," or "elderly"]   _______ [a gender] to remove _____ [his/her]  ________ [name of life-sustaining medical device/equipment/personal undergarment] before going through airport security." 

4. The Seattle Police Department.

Now, I've been known to leave a cup of coffee on the trunk of my car, so I know these sorts of a-duh moments sometimes happen. But leaving an unattended AK-15 rifle (one that is LOADED, mind you) on the back of a police vehicle warrants more than a write-up in one's file and a day's suspension.

5. Tracy Morgan.

Enough from you.  Just SHUT. THE. FUCK. UP. ALREADY. You've dropped the R-word one too many times, and you've referred to people with disabilities as chimps.  As the statement from Spread the Word to End the Word says, "Tracy Morgan is absolutely correct when he said mothers, family members, loved ones and friends of people with intellectual disabilities are not to be 'messed with.'"  Just don't.  And stop. 

6. Facebook.

It's better today, right now (thank God) but WTF has been up with the gawd-awful slowness of Facebook? Does Mark Zuckerberg have a few bucks to get this fixed already?  It's horrible and it is making me feel like I'm back in the freakin' dial-up connection age.  I've read any number of articles and theories - ranging from a) too many ads or b) too many vacation photos being uploaded to c) a gazillion unemployed college graduates suddenly having nothing to do, on top of nearly 10% of the country being unemployed and sitting around Facebooking all day (I happen to fall into that category, thank you very much, and realize I am probably part of the problem.) 

But it IS a problem because ... well ... (hangs head in shame )... I'm a Facebook addict, dammit.  I love Facebook, and I love that I can reach out and touch any of my 229 nearest and dearest Friends anytime I want, and this summer with me home with the kids 24/7, it's kind of a lifeline.  Seriously.

And I'm well aware that it's no coincidence that all of the above "news" stories (except the AK-15 one, which I learned about while reading Savage Love) were ones that I learned about on ... you guessed it, Facebook. Girl's gotta have her soapbox, y'know? 



copyright 2011, Melissa, 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.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Photo of the Day


And thank you, Political Humor (and my friend Jen who shared this on Facebook) for my (much-needed) laugh of the day.

Brain Freeze (or, Proof That SpongeBob Hasn't Yet Absorbed My Kid's Every Brain Cell.)

This morning, when I opened the freezer to make the kids a gourmet breakfast grab the microwavable pancakes, I was greeted by this:


(Kindly ignore the pink encrusted Pepto-Bismol looking crap on my freezer shelf, whatever the hell it may be.)  The drawing, however, was unmistakably Boo's handiwork. 

"Boo?" I called.  "Um ... what's this in the freezer?"

"It's a science experiment!" he replied gleefully.  "I wanted to see what happens if I put a cartoon in the freezer."

"What did you think would happen?"  I asked, amazed that the words "science experiment" actually made it into this house this summer.  (If Boo had his way, it would be all SpongeBob all the time 'round here. Which it pretty much is close to being, but WHATEVER.)

"Maybe he would grow icicles?"

(Yes, I admit, I initially mis-heard icicles as part of the male anatomy and was wondering why we were hypothesizing that a cartoon character could grow a pair.)

We pulled out the paper to discover, alas, there were no icicles (or anything else) to be had.  This clone of Mr. Snowmiser was just cold.  And a bit ... well ... limp.

But the hypothesis did prove one thing: this is proof that there were obviously some educational-related brain cells still functioning on this, our 19th day of summer vacation. (Not like I'm counting or anything like that. Nope. Not me.)

So, take that, SpongeBob. You haven't completely gotten my boy.

Yet.

copyright 2011, Melissa, 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.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Book Review: The Best American Poetry 2010, Guest Editor by Amy Gerstler, Series Editor David Lehman


The Best American Poetry 2010
Guest Editor Amy Gerstler
Series Editor David Lehman
Scribner Poetry
2010
229 pages

So when you're reading the best American poems for 2010 and one of best poems happens to be set in the very next tiny town from the tiny one you grew up in, that is a Very Cool Moment indeed.

(Or, maybe, I'm just a literary geek like that.)

But seriously, though ... you gotta admit that is kind of cool. You don't exactly expect teeny-tiny Jenkintown, Pennsylvania to pop up on page 131 of The Best American Poetry 2010, but there it is in Philadelphia native Tim Seibles's poem "Allison Wolff."  (One of the best in this best of collection, mind you ... and yes, I'd be saying that even if I didn't feel all kindred city of brotherly lovey about him and his poem about an interracial, interfaith romance between two high school students in 1972.) 

The truth is, many of these 75 poems are ones that are deserving of being called the best.  This is only the second Best American Poetry series I've read (my first one, 2008, wasn't quite to my liking) and I found these poems to be surprising, poignant, funny, provocative, and very contemporary.  (From guest editor Amy Gerstler's introduction: "An anthology can also provide a shadowy likeness of its time. Zeitgeist-y concerns and images that crop up in this sample of American poems of 2009 include: race, the 'wars' in  Iraq and Afghanistan, the use of lithium and Zoloft, AIDS, 'presidential blackness', sex education, religious fundamentalism, divorce, condoms, new views of motherhood, prison, depression, end times, fidelity, standardized tests."

Among the poems I especially liked, in addition to Tim Seibles's "Allison Wolff":

Denise Duhamel's "Play": "our niece wrote a one-act play in which a man is being abused/ by his wife who is a witch a demon/ and the man's kindly sister is trying to help him escape/ I know you are being abused as I was once too the heroine says/ my sister-in-law thought her brother was abused because he vacuumed once/ I guess she thought he was doting on me/ my husband thought he was abused because I asked him to cook dinner/ when he didn't have a job for over a year."

Moreso with the ending of this poem than the verses I've included here, Louise Gluck's "At the River" reminded me a bit of Carly Simon's "That's the Way I've Always Heard It Should Be." ("More and more that summer we understood/ that something was going to happen to us/ that would change us. And the group, all of us who used to meet this way/ the group would shatter, like a shell that falls away/ so the bird can emerge./ Only of course it would be two birds emerging, pairs of birds.")

Dolly Lemke's "I never went to that movie at 12:45" ("I'm not really okay with being alone in any sense. I have been afraid of the dark since I was 6 years old. I wish girls liked me more. There is an exact ratio of coffee, cream, and sugar in every cup I drink. Half the books I own I have never read.") 

A grudge becomes almost personified in Jeffrey McDaniel's "The Grudge": "I watered the grudge/ not with the fervent devotion/ of a nun clutching rosary beads./ not with the destructive clockwork/ of a drunk spilling vodka/ tumblers on the cactus erupting/through his heart ...." 

Sarah Murphy's "Letter to the Past after Long Silence": "Listen, I am climbing memory's slippery rungs. Listen, my hands are cold. Oh, I know it is over, stilled. Still, you filled my lungs with summer. The town was one tunnel of green. And I was still a girl, twirling in the trees, my body softened by August, my heart humming, a field full of bees." 

The letter Q takes on a different meaning in Sharon Olds's "Q": "Q belonged to Q. & A, to questions, and to foursomes, and fractions, it belonged to the Queen, to Quakers, to quintets - "

On the destruction of the environment and society's overconsumption, there's J. Allyn Rosser's "Children's Children Speech": "Now that we're so globally sure it will end / we should prepare a speech defending all/ The spoils we've made so much of. Miracles/ Are merely things we think we don't deserve./ We may as well prepare it now, the speech/ That would explain the things we had to have/ Were merely things we thought we would deserve/ In a heaven we had stopped believing in."

The posthumous poem "Having My Say-So" by James Schuyler is incredibly powerful, the least reason of which is because it was written in 1956.  ("What a dear good boy he is, I said aloud to the empty room. I never expected to feel like Elizabeth Barrett Browning again, not this soon. It's not so soon. Surely it is undignified for a gent to want to take another gent bouquets, and absurd? Just as surely I could not care less. Surely it's an incredible invasion of someone else's privacy to sit around writing unsolicited poems to and about him? Well, as you-know-who would say, I'm sorry but I just can't help it I feel this way. Deeply."

On the denizens of the corporate world (we all know people like these here, right?) Terence Winch writes "Objects of Spiritual Significance": "People love to humiliate each other. They are fools and liars, and will say or do whatever it takes to advance themselves in the world. They sit, one by one, on their barstools contemplating the failures of others, nibbling every downfall. The men are wearing invisible condoms, the women squabbling over who gets the best stem cells.")

And finally, Matthew Yeager's eternal questionning "A Jar of Balloons, or The Uncooked Rice," of which the 12 pages in the anthology is only the beginning of  25 more pages to come. (But it kind of promises you a fun ride for 25 more pages.)

As you can (hopefully) see, these are not high-falutin' poems. (Well, some of these in this anthology did kind of go over my head.) But you can actually understand the majority of these poems, which is kind of a deal-breaker for me. I have no interest or time in reading things I can't understand.  (Neither, it seems, does guest editor Amy Gerstler, who says "[m]y original idea for this introduction (which I scrapped, because I do not want to be labeled a slacker) was that it should consist in its entirety of this one sentence from Keats's letters: 'Here are the Poems - they will explain themselves - as all poems should do without any comment.")  Moreso than the 2008 edition that I read, this one seems to be trying to be accessible. 

That seems to be intentional. As Amy Gerstler says, "I badly want this anthology to be read not only by poetry fans but also by famished souls who never dreamed they'd admire any text that called itself a poem." I'd put myself much closer to the former rather than the latter, but I still find it difficult to say what it is about a particular poem that grabs me.

Ms. Gerstler goes on to add, "I'm not sure how to accomplish this. The publisher has not empowered me to give away thousands of free copies, dropping them from prop planes and blimps. The press run for this book is not going to be large enough to accommodate such a propaganda blitz, anyway. Nevertheless, I would love for this anthology to function as a gateway drug for the poetically resistant, uninitiated, or just plain scared. I'd like it to provide heady textual adventures that both the confirmed poetry parishioner and the new convert can savor."

That is something that this collection absolutely does.  


copyright 2011, Melissa, 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.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Sunday Salon: On Graveyards, Shipwrecks, and the 14 Books I Really, Really Want to Read in July


We're not even finished with June and already it is feeling like the dog days of summer - both in terms of the hot weather we've been having this week and also with the kids' cries of boredom. If they're not complaining about being bored, they're fighting with each other or me. Quite honestly, all I want to do is dive into my piles of books to escape the stress ... and that is exactly what I've been doing during this week in which I finished two books.  (Yay, me.) 

The first was the much acclaimed The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, which many a blogger has raved about.  And I can see why. I really enjoyed this, as mentioned in my review earlier this week.

I didn't really know what to expect (and I admit, there was something about reading Neil Gaiman that kind of intimidated me for some reason) but I was pleasantly surprised. This Newbery award winning book (which gives a suitable age level of 9-12, although I would personally lean more towards the older end) is more fairy tale than fright-fest, more enchantment than gore. Right from the first couple pages, I was captivated by the story of a baby who crawls away from his family - all murdered - to live among the larger-than-life spirits in a nearby graveyard.

Last night I finished Safe from the Sea, the debut novel from Peter Geye. This one would be perfect to read during a 100+ degree heatwave because Geye has a wonderful ability to give his reader a sense of place - which, in this case, is northern Minnesota along Lake Superior during the winter.  (I've never been, but I'd imagine that's pretty much like living at the North Pole.) 

Safe from the Sea mines familiar ground in this story of a dying father and his son who try to make peace and gain an appreciation and understanding of each other before its too late. Many a blogger loves this one; as for me, I definitely liked it.  The descriptions are fantastic, and Geye either has done a tremendous amount of research into the shipping industry in that part of the country (as well as shipwrecks) or he has some personal experience with this. (Similar with the infertility storyline, which in my opinion was also accurately portrayed.)

Alas, there was a DNF (did not finish) book in the midst this week. I was looking forward to reading Twin, the memoir by Allen Shawn.  It's about his relationship with his twin sister Mary, who has autism and intellectual disabilities.  Like many families in the 1950s who had a developmentally disabled child at home, the Shawns "sent Mary away" at the age of 8 to live in an institution.  (Shawn wrote a previous memoir, Wish I Could Be There that seems to touch on similar ground.)

Twin caught my attention for several reasons. Shawn's family background - his father was editor of The New Yorker magazine - is compelling.  There's a local connection (Mary is institutionalized here in Delaware, apparently still to this day). And, as a parent of a child with autism, I am interested to read about the relationship (especially that of twins) between siblings with disabilities. 

Unfortunately, that last factor was the reason for my abandoning it - because I wasn't getting as much of that as I expected. Shawn begins his memoir with a lengthy description of the history of autism (we get reintroduced to our old friends Leo Kanner, Hans Asperger, and the like). There was, at least in the first 35 pages, way too much of this talk, particularly the work of Bruno Bettelheim.

And that's where Shawn lost me. You can't escape being an autism mom without the ghost of Bettelheim's "refrigerator mom" accusations hanging over your head. Whereas most of the time I can deal with that and shrug it off, I'm just not in a frame of mind right now to do so.  I skimmed ahead a bit, and most of the sections I read seemed to focus more on Shawn's career as a composer and his family's issues (his father had an affair with a New Yorker writer for nearly 40 years) moreso than his relationship with Mary. 

So, back to the library it goes. 

Speaking of the library, I'm in a bit of a book addict's dilemma.  There's no way I am going to be able to read all the library books I have out before we move next month, and this makes me very sad.  I have this irrational fear of moving and being in an apartment and not having any books to read, especially since the vast majority of my books will be packed away. (Yes, I have my Kindle with my 433 books.  Yes, I will be bringing a few from my shelves with me. And yes, there is a library in our new town.)

That doesn't assuage my desire to read all the library books I currently have out, like ... right now. (Our library allows one to have 99 books out at a time, and I personally have half that amount checked out.) As I mentioned in the beginning of this post, things are a bit stressful right now and all I want to do is escape into my books.

But reading 50 books in the next month is a bit of a literary fantasy ridiculous, so I decided to prioritize the ones I currently have out. These, below, are the 14 13 books I most hope to get to in July (you know, while packing up the rest of this house and being home with two squabbling 9 year olds).


In case you can't read the titles, they are:

Freedom, by Jonathan Franzen (decided to send this back to the library unread, based on your comments)

Ask Me Why I Hurt: The Kids Nobody Wants and the Doctor Who Heals Them, by Randy Christensen

Join the Club: How Peer Pressure Can Transform the World, by Tina Rosenberg

By Nightfall, by Michael Cunningham

Children and Fire, by Ursula Hegi

Horoscopes for the Dead, Poems by Billy Collins

The Kid: What Happened After My Boyfriend and I Decided to Go Get Pregnant, by Dan Savage (not pictured but on the list is It Gets Better, a collection of essays and videos from the "It Gets Better" project) (completed 7/3/2011)

Townie, by Andre Dubus III

The Doctor and the Diva

Strangers at the Feast

Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture, by Peggy Orenstein (I'm about a 1/3 finished this) (finished 7/5/2011)

Safe from the Sea, by Peter Geye (finished this one last night)

Jackie as Editor

Treasures from the Attic

Oh, and also not pictured is one for a book tour so I guess we really are at 14.  I rationalize that this is completely doable because a few of these are fairly short.

In light of the incredible news out of New York this weekend, I really want to start the week off with The Kid ... but the book tour review (Repairing Rainbows by Lynda Fishman) should probably take priority since my date is August 4.

Have you read any of these?  Which ones would you recommend that I absolutely make sure I get to - or avoid?  And tell me if I'm not alone in wanting to escape life for awhile by diving into a pile of books (even if it means dealing with fictional graveyards and shipwrecks, as this week has brought).


copyright 2011, Melissa, 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.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

In A New York State of Mind (with an excerpt from my novel in progress)

Times Square, New York City
taken by me as seen from a cab on August 7, 2010 

An excerpt from my novel in progress:

But the weekend had felt heavy, scripted, on edge. He was jittery, chain-smoking his Tarletons, chain-drinking Pepsi.  She was waiting for news that she already knew, news that she didn't want to hear.

And then there it was.

No preamble, no preface. I’m dying. Dropped into regular conversations about traffic and jobs and butter cake, just like that. You’ll be losing another person you love. You are losing another person you love.

She remembered thinking, I should know how this goes by now. I should know what to do, how to act, what to say, how to be. I’ve done this before.

And yet, he didn’t seem to be in crisis. He said this as matter of factly, calmly, even. His jumpiness receded and a calm seemed to come over him.

"Did you hear me?”

“I heard you.”

“Well, say something.”

“I just did,” she said. “I’m … I’m sorry.”

“I’ve known for awhile,” he admitted. “It was just ….”

“You don’t have to explain yourself,” she said, instantly regretting her harsh tone.

“I was waiting for the right time to say something,” he said. “I think this is the type of news that you want to break in person.” A half-smile crossed his face.

She half-smiled back. “Hey, Jenna, how are you?” she said, holding an imaginery phone up to her ear. “Just thought I’d give you a call to say hi and oh by the way, did I mention that I have AIDS?”

This was their style, the easy way they had between them. It would be the only way to get through this, she realized, the only way to keep hold of what was now. She wanted to ask the other questions – the how long, the when will you … but knew better. She knew that he didn’t have those answers, that nobody did. 

Sixteen years ago this weekend, The Husband and I sat with my uncle in his dining room. We were there under false pretenses, supposedly for a relaxing weekend that would include a visit to New York City, but we all knew there was a darker reason for our being there. We suspected, we assumed. 

We knew. 

There are several things that stand out from that weekend.  The disclosure from my uncle that he was dying of AIDS. Driving through New York City and then into Westchester County to hear him play piano. And his euphoric, almost giddy plans for a garden wedding.

As in, his. With his partner.

Maybe he meant something like a commitment ceremony? No.  There would be a wedding.  At a rich friend's home in upstate New York. He would tape-record some of his piano playing.  I would do the calligraphy for the invitations.  Sure, not a problem. Except ... well. 

We looked at each other, The Husband and I. 

"Is that even legal?" I whispered, wide-eyed.

"Uh ... I don't think so."

We shrugged, chalked it up to yet another side effect of the meds he was taking on and off.

I mean, how the hell would a wedding even be possible?  In that house were the only four people who knew of his condition.  (Well, I guess there was a doctor who knew somewheres, but in terms of family, we were it.) Even if it was legal, there was no way there would be, could be such a wedding without someone - namely my grandmother - keeling over.

Quite simply, it wasn't going to happen. The whole thing was preposterous, to say the least.  Something that seemed unattainable, unreachable. 

As it turned out, there wasn't a wedding or a commitment ceremony or anything - mainly because he didn't get better. 

But last night in New York? Things got much better indeed.

photo credit is from Newsweek's tumblr ... I think.  At least, that's where I first saw it.



 
copyright 2011, Melissa, 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.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

This Book Blogging Thing of Ours, Explained

Oh, what the hell ... here we go again.

Is it me, or does it seem like we can't go more than a few weeks anymore without someone ripping bloggers (be it mommy bloggers or book bloggers or what have you) a new one? 

Every so often, someone who thinks they're allfreakinthat puts out a piece of reportage on a subject they might be only merely acquainted with and gets folks all riled up.

In the most recent case, I speak of the brouhaha that has erupted from a certain piece in the Santa Cruz Weekly from one Daniela Hurezanu who believes, among other things, that we book bloggers are 20 year old "girls" with hundreds of Twitter followers espousing our thoughts about three types of books: romance, horror/vampire or paranormal.

Wait, don't take my lowly book blogger word for it.  Take Ms. Hurezanu's, particularly the first sentence:

"Book blogging has become a subculture whose members are mostly women between 20 and 50 years old, often known as “mommy bloggers” because they are housewives who blog about romance novels, horror/vampire stories and paranormal novels. Many of them have hundreds of followers on Twitter, and the result is that they have the power to establish new trends. And the publishing industry has started to take them seriously. They receive review copies from publicists, and the authors court them assiduously. At the Book Bloggers reception I met many girls in their early twenties who already have hundreds of followers on Twitter. As far as I could tell, I was the only person at the convention who doesn’t tweet. All these 20-year-old bloggers form a community that is replacing the traditional book reviewers; they know each other, read each other’s blogs and blog about the same books. So, in a paradoxical way, this subculture is even more limited in its interests than the mainstream media. Though, in theory, the Internet is a space of infinite diversity, in practice many communities reproduce the patterns that exist outside cyberspace. The main difference between the new book bloggers and the old book reviewers is that the former don’t have any literary “prejudices.” They are children of pop culture and the mass media, and have transferred their interests onto the realm of books. Their electronic chatter will soon cover whatever is left of book reviewing." 

(First of all, what kind of a paragraph is that?)

Let us take this one stereotype at a time and break this book blogging thing of ours down, shall we?

1. We're a subculture whose members are mostly women between 20 and 50 years old often known as “mommy bloggers” because they are housewives who blog about romance novels, horror/vampire stories and paranormal novels.

Well, speaking for myself, I do happen to fall into that broad demographic of being a woman between ages 20 and 50. But the reality is that some book bloggers are, in fact, younger than 20 and some are older than 50.  Some book bloggers are even ... men. 

And I'm far from being June freakin' Cleaver. (Well, technically, this summer I kinda am the very embodiment of Mrs. Cleaver because I'm unemployed, but I don't want to give Ms. Hurezanu any more ammo to take potshots at me.)  When I'm not in housewife mode, I'm hustling up some consulting and freelance gigs and launching a business and working on a novel.

So, imagine that. We represent all demographics.  Much like the clientele at, say, a bookstore or a library.  The last I checked, reading is something that doesn't usually limit one's enjoyment to whether you are a certain race, gender, creed, sexual orientation, or economic class.

I could forgive Ms. Hurezanu that generalization, though - if it was her only one. The problem, though, starts when the mommy blogger label gets thrown and when our collective book preferences are whittled down to only three. That's when this "article" veers from a piece of journalism to ... well, a barrage of stereotypes, really. It makes the assumption that we're all sitting at home in our pajamas doing nothing but reading crap (in Ms. Hurezanu's view) and ohmigawd-ing about it in 140 characters or less.

Give me a break.

2. "Many of them have hundreds of followers on Twitter, and the result is that they have the power to establish new trends. And the publishing industry has started to take them seriously. They receive review copies from publicists, and the authors court them assiduously."

Hundreds of followers on Twitter hardly makes one a player in the social media sandbox, Daniela.  To "have the power to establish new trends," it takes a little more oomph than that and I'm not even going to get into the high-falutin' statement a few lines down about how you're the only one who doesn't tweet.  That's your choice, but the reality is Twitter is a vital and vibrant component of the book blogging world.  If you don't personally tweet, fine - but you come across as a doddering fool by knocking a social media outlet that is a force to be reckoned with.

You're right in that the publishing industry has started to take us seriously. As someone who has been blogging about books for almost 3 years, there was a time when this was most certainly not the case. How else do you explain the increased number of publishers, publicists, and authors at the Book Blogger Convention this year?  Because you couldn't turn around without meeting a publisher, publicist or author ... and that was and is a very good thing.

3. "At the Book Bloggers reception I met many girls in their early twenties who already have hundreds of followers on Twitter."

I'm pretty shitty at small talk, but had I been at the Book Bloggers reception, I highly doubt I would have been asking my book blogging peers their age and number of Twitter followers.  I can tell you inquiries about such vital statistics never came up among those I met and talked with at the Book Bloggers Convention held the next day.  Nor would I have expected it to.  I might be reaching here, but is it possible you might be generalizing about people's ages just a tad, Ms. Hurezanu?  Some "girls" (how derogatory!) who appear to be in their early 20s might actually be in their early 30s, or older.  And what does it matter, anyway?  In college, I knew plenty of people ("boys" and "girls") who were perfectly capable of expressing their views on a book or an issue despite their age.

(And oh ... it takes like a freakin' nanosecond to get hundreds of followers on the Twitter.  Just in case you were thinking about trying it out someday.)

4. "All these 20-year-old bloggers form a community that is replacing the traditional book reviewers; they know each other, read each other’s blogs and blog about the same books. So, in a paradoxical way, this subculture is even more limited in its interests than the mainstream media.

Again with the 20 year olds. What happened to being between ages 20 and 50?  Now we're all back to being 20 years old? (Oh, girlfriend, you don't know how I wish.) Yeah, we bloggers know each other.  Yeah, we read each other's blogs. Yeah, some of us have literary (there, I said it!) tastes in common. 

Actually, we're even tighter than that. Some of us are even Facebook friends and some of us even - hold onto your holier-than-thou literary street cred!  - get together in real life.  (Like, put on real clothes instead of pajamas and venture out behind out laptops and meet our imaginary friends from the Big Bad Internet in real life. And for the most part, we come back home intact, unscathed by urban legends, in full possession of our kidneys and all.)

And the problem with all that is ... what, exactly?  That's how community is formed. You're telling me that the world of the traditional book reviewer ISN'T one where everyone knows each other's name and that the reviewer from the New York Times ISN'T reading the reviewer from the Washington Post? Well, knock this bookmommyblogger out with a bon-bon, already. Bad me for assuming.

5. "The main difference between the new book bloggers and the old book reviewers is that the former don’t have any literary “prejudices.” They are children of pop culture and the mass media, and have transferred their interests onto the realm of books. Their electronic chatter will soon cover whatever is left of book reviewing."

I don't even know what the hell these first two sentences MEAN. What does it mean, exactly, to have a literary prejudice?  Is that the same as being familiar with a genre, interested enough in a genre to write about it? If so, then I guess I defy that stereotype too in that I do have certain preferences in my books - just like everyone else does, whether it be about books or music or what have you.  The "children of pop culture" statement makes us all sound like we're only interested in reading Justin Bieber's latest memoir. 

But here, finally, is something on which Ms. Hurezanu and I can agree.  Yes, I absolutely believe it is true that the book bloggers' "chatter" (and tweets and posts and podcasts) is the future of book reviewing. All one needs to do is look at the 700 souls who were employed by Gannett at the beginning of this week to see what the future of book reviewing, much less print media, is. I think we're seeing the dawn of a very different world in publishing - one that encapsulates the new media of e-readers and bloggers and new technologies and mediums that have yet to be invented.

And the good news is that there's room in the book blogosphere for all of us, regardless of our preferences in books or our ages or our life experience. 

But what there isn't room for is journalism that deals in generalities, for those who judge and stereotype rather than do basic research, for those who cast stones at the pioneers of a new world instead of joining them on the wagon.







copyright 2011, Melissa, 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.

Book Review: The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman


The Graveyard Book
by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Dave McKean
Harper Collins
2008
307 pages

When you first enter this book blogging world, you immediately notice that there are several authors who keep popping up on many a blog.  As in, they and their books almost lend themselves to becoming exalted, praised by every blogger under the sun. 

Neil Gaiman is such an author and The Graveyard Book is such a book.  When I first started blogging three years ago, it seemed as if all I heard about was Mr. Gaiman.  I confess, I never heard of the guy beforehand.  Maybe one day, I thought to myself, I'd pick up one of his books and see what all the fuss is about.

So I did.  Crazy Hair was on display in the children's room at the library and I checked it out - and loved it more than my kids did.  (They enjoyed it, but it was definitely enough to make me think there might be something to this Gaiman thing after all.)

It has taken me two years to pick up The Graveyard Book, and I gotta say ... all you bloggers who love this one are absolutely right.  I didn't really know what to expect (and I admit, there was something about reading Neil Gaiman that kind of intimidated me for some reason) but I was pleasantly surprised.  This is more fairy tale than fright-fest, more enchantment than gore.  Right from the first couple pages, I was captivated by the story of a baby who crawls away from his family - all murdered - to live among the larger-than-life spirits in a nearby graveyard. 

"Ever since the child had learned to walk he had been his mother's and father's despair and delight, for there never was such a boy for wandering, for climbing up things, for getting into and out of things. That night, he had been woken by the sound of something on the floor beneath him falling with a crash. Awake, he soon became bored, and had begun looking for a way out of his crib. It had high sides, like the walls of his playpen downstairs, but he was convinced that he could scale it. All he needed was a step ..."  (pg 10-11)

C'mon, doesn't that make you want read on to find out what happens to the orphaned boy? 

What happens is that he makes his way to a nearby graveyard where he is taken in by the kindly souls that reside there.  He gets parents and a new name ("Nobody Owens," and is nicknamed Bod), and a guardian named Silas.  They teach him practical things, like history and the alphabet and how to Fade and Haunt. 

In Bod, Gaiman creates such an endearing, lovable character that you just want to scoop him up and adopt him.  He evokes your sympathy, first with the loss of his entire family and then as he is ignored by much of the world when he does, on occasion, venture out of the graveyard.

"Bod was used to being ignored, to existing in the shadows. When glances naturally slip from you, you become very aware of eyes upon you, of glances in your direction, of attention. And if you barely exist in people's minds as another living person then being pointed to, being followed around ... these things draw attention to themselves." (pg. 186)

As Bod grows into a young man, however, the world outside the gates of the graveyard proves to be too enticing, despite the dangers lurking. One of the many themes of The Graveyard Book, then, becomes how to gain the courage to leave your comfort zone and to take risks and discover your potential.

"Bod shrugged. 'So?' he said. 'It's only death.  I mean, all of my best friends are dead.'

'Yes.' Silas hesitated. 'They are. And they are, for the most part, done with the world. You are not. You're alive, Bod. That means you have infinite potential. You can do anything, make anything, dream anything. If you change the world, the world will change. Potential. Once you're dead, it's gone. Over. You've made what you've made, dreamed your dream, written your name. You may be buried here, you may even walk. But that potential is finished." (pg. 179)

The Graveyard Book is one that will resonate with all age groups, even though it is slated for 9-12 year olds. (For some more sensitive souls on the younger end, the idea of one's whole family being murdered might be too much to handle; I know that would definitely be the case for my kids. You might want to use your parental judgment on this.)

Oh. One more thing that will only make sense to those who have read the book.  I borrowed this one from the library, and what did I discover left inside the book but this:



I didn't think anything of it at first, but when I got to the part of the story with Abanazer Bolger locking Bod in the storeroom, and the mention of the little card ... well, that just kind of intensified the goosebump factor.  Good thing the card says Ben instead of Jack, otherwise I don't know if I would have been able to sleep.

And yeah, I am leaving the card in the book for the next library patron to experience the full effect of The Graveyard Book. Maybe even in that very section.

I think Neil Gaiman would approve.

What Other Bloggers Thought (there are hundreds of reviews of this one ... did I miss yours?)

Alison's Book Marks
Bart's Bookshelf
Becky's Book Reviews
The Bluestocking Society
Bookalicio.us
Capricious Reader
Devourer of Books
Em's Bookshelf
Fantasy Cafe
Farm Lane Books
Fizzy Thoughts
Fyrefly's Book Blog 
I'm Booking It
The Literate Housewife Review
Maw Books Blog
Melody's Reading Corner
Necromancy Never Pays
nomadreader
Ready When You Are, C.B.
Rebecca Reads
Rhapsody in Books
Savidge Reads
Shelf Love
Stainless Steel Droppings
Stella Matutina
There's A Book
Worducopia
The Zen Leaf


copyright 2011, Melissa, 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.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Goldfinches

Two feeders by a sunroom window at my mother's house tend to attract as many as seven goldfinches at one time.  On Thursday, Boo and I stayed overnight and I watched three of them on Friday morning while eating my breakfast.  These were taken through the sunroom window from inside the house, hence the fuzziness of some of the photos. 








For more Wordless Wednesday photos, go here. 

copyright 2011, Melissa, 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.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Father's Day 2011: The Here and the Now


I didn't think I needed to write a Father's Day post to The Husband.  I really didn't plan on it, to be honest.

But then, you know, post after glowing post started showing up in my Google Reader - tributes to all the wonderful dads out there, guys who are the type of dads that The Husband is.  Friends and family members are writing Hallmark card worthy status updates on Facebook whereas I'm posting a picture of the kids and calling it a day. 

And I'm sitting here thinking, I'm really such a shit for not doing one of my own.  I didn't buy a gift this year (when the hell the last time I did so is beyond me) and a card?  Well, Betty just made him an animated Dad-inator Phineas and Ferb card on disney.com.  That counts, right?  And I did make his favorite dinner for dinner (baked ziti).  That counts too, right? Right?

I demonstrated the same behavior last weekend for our anniversary.  No card, no gift (although we were away for a couple days, so that was a gift itself), although we did have dinner out at one of our favorite shore restaurants ... with the kids. 

Because it's not like The Husband doesn't know how I feel, for God's sakes.  Obviously, he knows that I think he is a great Dad and a wonderful husband, yada yada yada, so it doesn't really matter. 

But see, here's the thing:  it kinda sorta does. 

For reasons I don't really want to go into on the blog and Facebook, it matters especially so this year.  After being together for literally half your life, you fall into these sorts of silent, oh,he/she-knows-how-I-feel patterns, despite the irony of the minister at your wedding deliberately changing up your vows and scrapping the to have's and to holds with phrases like "you'll remember the big things like your anniversary, but it's the little day to day things like saying, you matter to me that is the hard stuff." 

You take for granted that things like the laundry will always be done every Sunday of your life, like it has been in mine for 20 years.  (Yes.  Twenty years my husband has been doing my laundry.  Top that, girlfriends.)  You take for granted things like being able to count on your husband to run out to Walgreens for a gallon of milk, or take the boy for a haircut, or to pick up the kids when you're running late, or to remember the sunscreen and apply it better than you, or to take them to the park when you've got a migraine kicking your ass for the third day in a row. 

And these are just the little things.  We're not even going to get into the big deal, lifelong, no-cure-or-end-in-sight things. 

Like parenting a child with autism, for example. 

Like being a hands-on, 24/7 dad when you're living with chronic pain due to not one, not two, but three (at last count) herniated disks.

You take these big and little things for granted until they're not there anymore - or, in our case, not there as much.  For as regular readers and friends know, this year is shaping up to be a doozy for us and one of our most challenging and most vulnerable since the year of Boo's autism diagnosis.  This is a year where we've been parenting by BlackBerry and Skype (when the connection doesn't crap out on us), due to The Husband living more than 6 hours and more than 300 miles away from us.  We've been living this crazy, home-is absolutely-the-Pennsylvania-Turnpike life since February and even though he has been making the trip home every single weekend for five months, this is getting tiresome.  (How the hell people do this in more extenuating circumstances - like all the time or while in the military - is beyond my comprehension.) 

One of my faults is that I tend to focus on anything but the here and the now. 

I procrastinate. (Hence, the no Father's Day card or gift.) 

I fixate a bit too much on the past. (I spent several hours last night trying to figure out - and then find - which photo of my dad, who has been gone 26 years, to use for a Father's Day post.) 

I don't always live in the moment.  (I'm working on that.)

And when you live with one foot in the future and one foot in the past, you're not grounded in the present and you miss saying what needs to be said. 

Which, for this Father's Day for The Husband, goes something like this: 

You're an even better father than I ever imagined you would be, in circumstances that we never imagined would be.

Even though it doesn't always seem like it, you're needed and missed more than you can imagine. 

And you're loved more than you can possibly imagine.

Happy Father's Day. 



copyright 2011, Melissa, 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.

The Sunday Salon: Books by the Beach


I'm playing catch up with the Salon this week, since we were away last Sunday. It was our 18th wedding anniversary (how is that possible?!) and we spent a glorious weekend with the kids at my aunt and uncle's beach house to celebrate.

Even though this was somewhat of an impromptu trip, I still had the dilemma and indecision of which books to bring along.  (Never mind the fact that I have 433 books downloaded on my Kindle, which was obviously coming along but just not to the actual beach.) 

I need not have worried about that, because as luck would have it, the little library by the sea in this tiny shore town (separate post to come on that) was having a Summer Book Sale!  Whereas I practically jumped out of the car as we passed by the sign, I think The Husband was hoping I'd be rendered temporarily illiterate. The kids and I caught the sale on one of its last days, but I still managed to fill a bag for $2 with these gems:


Not pictured is one that I purchased for The Husband, When Pride Still Mattered: A Life of Vince Lombardi by David Maraniss. (He's reading it outside as I type, accompanied by a Father's Day cigar.) None of these made it out of the bag (or the car, for that matter) as I had selected Dangerous Neighbors by my friend Beth Kephart for my beach read. 

This was an ARC (advance reader's copy) that I had purchased from another book sale, which was perfect because my copy of Dangerous Neighbors is a) signed and signed books don't go to the beach and b) packed away, in preparation for our move.  (This also means that, for my review, I'm going to be a bad blogger and break all the rules by referring to the ARC version. So be it.) 

I really liked Dangerous Neighbors.  As with Beth's other books I've read (House of Dance, Nothing But Ghosts), it is set in my hometown of Philadelphia.  This one, moreso than the other two, is a love story to our city of brotherly (or sisterly, as the case may be here) love.  And, I loved that part of it was set in Cape May, a shore town that I adore and which was (and still is, of course) only a stone's throw from where I sat reading.  

Back to the little library by the sea for a minute.  (It's such a wonderful place.)  We borrowed my aunt's library card and one of the books I checked out (and devoured in one sitting) was the incredible I Was Amelia Earhart by Jane Mendelsohn.  Holy cow, people ... I'm telling you, this one just blew me away. The writing in this one! Spectacular.  

In her debut novel, Mendelsohn takes her reader into the mind of pilot Amelia Earhart after her plane crashes and imagines what happened afterwards.  It's brilliantly done.  It's going to be one of my favorite reads of 2011. I have Beth Kephart to thank for introducing me to the works of Jane Mendelsohn, for it was her review of American Music that made me pick that one up (and select that as one of my favorite books of 2010).  I wasn't crazy about Mendelsohn's Innocence, but this one has solidified her place as one of my favorite writers. 

So, that was last week.  Two fabulous books read from start to finish on a 3 day vacation, along with a decent portion of the Summer Fiction Issue of "The New Yorker" on my Kindle. (And might I add that I am loving having a Kindle subscription to this? It is perfect for reading in short increments of time.)

Upon returning home, I finished Reading Jackie: Her Autobiography in Books by William Kuhn. He connects the books Jackie edited to significant instances, events, and people in her life; in doing so, he presents his view that the books serve as a window into her thoughts and feelings while giving us a glimpse into the woman Jackie really was - the woman behind the two marriages to famous, powerful men.  Some of the discussion about the actual books and conception and production thereof struck me as a little dry (I admit that I skimmed over some of those parts).

I'll have more to say about this in my review (I have Jackie as Editor out from the library so am hoping to review both of them together) but for the most part I found this to be interesting.

Last night I finished Click: The Magic of Instant Connections by Ori Brafman and Rom Brafman.  This is a short, fairly fast read about the psychology behind feeling an immediate, powerful connection to someone - or when we are in the state of flow (as described by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi) with a project or hobby.

We can all probably think of a time when we "clicked" right away with someone, be that a significant other or a work colleague. These connections are ones that I always thought to be more serendipitious than scientific, but the Brafmans show that there are several psychological factors at play. There are some work implications with this, too, which is making me look at the business of fundraising in a slightly different way.

On Friday, Boo and I spent the day with my mom.  We went to their pool in the morning, where I continued reading the Summer Fiction Issue.  I only got through George Saunders's story "Home," but wow ... what a fabulous piece of writing. 

This is one of the best short stories I've ever read. Again, it's the writing (particularly, the dialogue) that makes this one shine.  I loved it, and now I am going to want to seek out more of George Saunders's work.  If his other stories are even half as good as "Home," then I know I will be in for a treat. 

As for today? It's Father's Day, and while this is always kind of a bittersweet day (my dad died when I was 15), it's a day to celebrate the wonderful father that The Husband is. We don't have any grandiose plans (The Husband and Boo are probably getting haircuts; I'll make The Husband's favorite dinner, baked ziti).

Hope you're having a great Sunday - and to all the dads out there, Happy Father's Day!

copyright 2011, Melissa, 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.

When It Feels Sad and Beautiful, Like the Last Day


Me and my dad on my first Christmas, 1969
 
"When she thinks of her father now, she sees him at the end of the day.  That's his time of day, twilight, or just before. The late afternoon, when the sun is setting, when it feels sad and beautiful, like the last day. When the sadness is too unbearable to think about, and this makes you strangely cheerful."

from I Was Amelia Earhart by Jane Mendelsohn,  pg. 95

copyright 2011, Melissa, 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.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Weekend Cooking: Breakfast Buffet, Betty and Boo Style


Weekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads and is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page. For more information, see the welcome post.

My kids are enamored with the concept of a "breakfast buffet."  Every morning, they request such and I usually comply with a modified version.  They'll help themselves to muffins before I wake up, and then I'm pressed into service as a short-order breakfast buffet cook whipping up pancakes, vegetarian bacon or sausage, juice, and a small omelet (for Boo). 

Last evening, they were playing downstairs in the basement playroom.  Shortly thereafter, Betty presented me with her Breakfast Buffet menu for her newly-launched restaurant ("The Peanut Place," in honor of  the nickname The Husband has bestowed on her):

Bacon Blintz
Waffle Whoosh!
Coffee cream'e
Mixed berry chocolate muffin
Saturday souffle
Perfect Pancakes
Dude is for Doughnuts
Supper-Egg!
Wow Tea!
Cereal Surprise
Banana Blitz
Pastry Pling
Eggo Meggo

Meal can come with your choice of bacon, side of healthy whipped cream, and breakfast roll.  

Ignore the increasing cholesterol counts.  (Although you certainly can't go wrong with a "side of healthy whipped cream," right?)





copyright 2011, Melissa, 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.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Book Review (Audio): The Box: Tales From the Darkroom, by Gunter Grass


The Box: Tales from the Darkroom
by Gunter Grass
translated from the German by Krishna Winston
Houghton Mifflin, 2010
195 pages

Narrated by Stefan Rudnicki
Blackstone Audio, 2010
5 discs, 5 hours

Have you ever had dinner with a group of people, all of whom are related, and all of whom are oblivious to your presence as they continually relive (ad nauseum) family events and stories that a) aren't very interesting and b) happened way before you ever met these folks?  And as they regale each other with these tales, they're constantly interrupting one another and have vastly differing versions and opinions of what exactly happened and why?

Well, that's what it's like reading (or listening, as the case may be) to The Box. 

This one was a little rough going for exactly that reason.  Now, let me say that I haven't read anything by Gunter Grass before and I believe that this was probably not the best book of his as an introduction. (So as not to judge on just this book alone, I may read some of his other work in the future, just to get a better sense of whether this is his typical style.)  But, I picked it up at the library because the premise sounded interesting. 

Grass writes in the voices of his eight grown children, who gather with some regularity at each others' homes for a meal and to tape record their childhood memories.  Their father (Grass?) requested this of them (I think), and so each chapter begins with a description of who's house we're at on this particular occasion, the meal set before them, a very brief recap of what's happening in their respective lives, and the fumblings of the audio recorder.

No matter what story they are telling, they always seem to come back to the issue of Marie and her "magic box," an Agfa camera. 

Marie is a "family friend" of the children's father - and I put family friend in quotes deliberately because you get the impression (and some of the children agree) that there might have been a bit more to the relationship. This wouldn't be out of the realm of possibility because several of the eight children have different mothers.   She is based on a real person, as the book is dedicated to Marie Rama. 

Marie (also refered to as "Mariechen") is with the family all the time, and so is her magical camera.  She takes pictures of their everyday life - right down to the crumbs they leave on the table - but once in the darkroom, the images become altered and dramatically different from what actually happened at the moment the photo was snapped.

I think that The Box is meant to show how events in our lives can be viewed differently, even by the same people who experienced them with us, but in the end, this just didn't work for me.  A day after finishing it, I can't remember any of the stories that the children told, and the feeling I have is just one of boredom and disinterest. There's way too much talk about the freakin' CAMERA. As one reviewer on Amazon said, by the time you're finished with The Box, you are sick to death of hearing about this damn camera and its magical powers.

(I think there is probably much more to this that I, because of my unfamiliarity with Grass's other works, am not understanding or seeing clearly.  I'm definitely missing something here.)

Because I listened to this on audio, I do want to say that I thought Stefan Rudnicki did a tremendous job as narrator.  As I mentioned, this is a story told by eight children - and Rudnicki is the only narrator!  He varies his voice and inflection to represent each of the characters, and does this well.  It's not always possible to know which person is talking, but you know that the speaker has indeed changed, which is more important.

If you like Gunter Grass's other works, The Box might be something you'd be interested in picking up.  If not, I'd recommend skipping this one. 


copyright 2011, Melissa, 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.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Wait, I Still Have More to Tell You! (About the Book Blogger Convention)

If you're a book blogger, you're probably breathing a sigh of relief that all the superlative-laden posts about Book Expo America and the Book Blogger Convention are done with (for another year, that is). But, you see, while most bloggers have happily moved on to other more current posts, well ... I'm kind of not done already.

I still have more to tell you about.  More bloggers to link to, more names to drop, more books to get excited about, more pictures. 

(If you want to listen, that is.  I won't be offended if you don't.  Um ... really, I won't.)

OK, so, good.  You're still here. Thank you. 

Now, picking up where we left off, with the panels. 

After mistakenly walking into the "Ask a Publisher/Publicist" panel, I realized I meant to go to "Practical Challenges of Book Blogging" instead.  Whoops.  Awkward.  No offense to those with the publisher/publicist panel, but since I don't accept many review books (the irony being that, I've accepted two since returning from the Convention; that's two more than I've accepted in the past year), the discussion of the practical challenges was more apropos.  It was led by these lovely bloggers here:

(Again, kindly ignore the quality of the photos.  They're not up to my usual standards, I know.  I sacrificed editing in the name of timeliness.)


Kristen from Fantasy Cafe, Raych from Books I Done Read (who is as freakin' hilarious in real life as she is on her kick-ass blog and the blogger I am a-kicking my own ass for not having met), Meg from Write Meg! (moderator), Lenore from Presenting Lenore, and Jenn from Jenn's Bookshelves.

Alas, I didn't take many notes during this one but I thought this was one of the best panels I attended.  The panel discussed one of the common conundrums faced by bloggers - that of balancing our time between blogging, reading, work, family responsibilities, and other interests. 

Many of us nodded when the discussion turned to people in our lives asking us how we manage to read so much. It's all about making time for what's important, and for many of us who had traveled to New York and taken vacation days and incurred expenses to do so, reading and blogging are obviously important.

For me personally, I make time for reading and blogging by watching very little TV.  I've got enough reality shows being broadcast 24/7 in my own real life, thank you very much. The Husband is a sports fan, so usually he's watching a game while I'm sitting here blogging or reading.  It works just fine for us. 

Mixing up the book talk with some personal stories was also discussed, and how much of one's personal and family life to share.  That varies from blogger to blogger, as we know.  Some of us are more comfortable sharing every detail of our lives, some aren't. One of the bloggers (I apologize that I don't remember who) made the comment that, "if we're visiting a blog, we're visiting you."  I think that's so true.  I like to think of my blog readers as people I'm talking to over coffee or a glass of wine, and I think (I hope) I'm pretty much the same in person as I am on the blog.  What you read is what you get. 

I really liked Jenn's system of putting books on her shelves according to review dates she's committed to, and I especially liked how her review policy states that if she doesn't get back to pitches within two weeks, then that means she's not interested. I've since added that to my review policy.

Then it was time for lunch!  I caught up with Michelle from Red Headed Book Child, who I met when we sat together at lunch last year, so we sat together again.  (It's becoming a Book Blogger Convention tradition for us.)  


In addition to Michelle, our table consisted of Florinda (pictured at left, with back to camera); Cliff, author/publisher of The Highly Sensitive Person Publishing Company (who I had a really interesting and lively conversation with about Asperger's Syndrome, sensory-processing disorder, and using/monetizing our blogs as launchpads for consulting and other professional opportunities); Alison from Alison's Book Marks (who was delightful and a new-to-me blogger even though I'd heard of her blog),  Giselle-Marie, a publicist with Simon and Schuster's Free Press division, (I have several of their books in my library piles, so I wish I'd had more of a chance to talk with Giselle-Marie) another representative from Simon and Schuster whose name and card I did not get, and Natalie from Coffee and a Book Chick (also a new-to-me blogger).


This is just half of the room at lunch. 
For once, every single one of us was sitting at The Cool Kids Table.


Then a few of us from our table (Michelle, Florinda, Natalie) meandered off to the next panel and were joined by Kim from Sophisticated Dorkiness as well as Joy from Joy's Book Blog.  (I was delighted to meet Joy, as I read her blog regularly.) We all sat together for "Navigating the Grey Areas of Book Blogging," a panel moderated by (left to right) Heather of Age 30+ ...A Lifetime in Books and consisting of Kathleen Schmidt of A Bookish Broad as well as KMS PR, Bethanne Patrick from Shelf-Awareness, Candace from Beth Fish Reads, Amy from Amy Reads, and Pam from Mother Reader

Among the discussions that I found most enlightening was Bethanne's commentary about the consideration we give the authors, particularly ones we have a relationship (i.e., are friends with).  (I always like to hear anything Bethanne has to say; her comments are substantive and I think she is one of the finest voices we have in the book world.) There's a fine line between promoting an author and the potential misconception that an author "bought" a review on your blog, due to the nature of the friendship.  We as bloggers need to be conscious of this and to think of the authors, too.

In such cases, it becomes necessary, as Amy said, to "separate the book from the author."  Regardless, it's just good practice to disclose any potential relationships with authors right from the get-go.  It can be as simple as, "I met Ms. Author at a signing and have communicated with her on the Twitter," etc. 

Two more takeways from this panel:

- Kathleen mentioned that, within the publishing world, there is still "an in-house conversion happening."  (I think this was in reference to the relationship and the impact of book bloggers, but I thought it was an interesting statement nonetheless.)

- Pam advised the audience that we should be particular about what we take and to be realistic about the number of reviews/books we can commit to. 

I will confess that I snuck out of this one halfway through in order to check out the Author Speed Dating going on next door.  I will also confess that I was pleasantly surprised by this.  I expected the authors to be overly "pitchy" in regards to their books; with the exception of one author who WAS borderline obnoxious after I politely said that I didn't think I was the right blogger for said book, they were absolutely wonderful and I loved talking with each of them ... so much so that Author Speed Dating deserves its own (separate) blog post. 

After Author Speed Dating, I lingered a bit too long chatting and then popped over to the panel Florinda was moderating, "Blogging For a Niche Market."  My oh my, this was a big panel!  I tweeted something to the effect that this was the largest panel I'd ever seen from any conference I'd been to. 


(I'm not even going to begin to attempt to identify everyone here, because I know I will screw somebody up.)

Again, I don't have a single word of notes ... but I was interested that Bonjour, Cass is doing A Guide to Reviewing GLBTQ Books.  (Hers is a blog I had heard of before the Convention and now that I've spent some time checking it out, am kicking myself for not discovering it earlier.) I'll also direct you over to Rhapsody in Books. Jill, who was one the panel (she's fifth from the left) has a great follow up post on one of the questions posed by Florinda. 

I love Jill.  And her blog.  I love that I got to hang with her several times during the day.  Here we are (me on the right looking a bit punch-drunk ... my 3 a.m. wake-up call was starting to catch up to me by this point.)


We also chatted with Pam from MotherReader, who was wearing my Favorite Accessory EVER. 


It's a SCARF made of LETTERS!  From Australia. 
Could there be anything more perfect than this for a book blogging convention?

I was among the last of the bloggers shutting the lights off at the Javits Center. 


Missed my previous Book Blogger Convention 2011 posts? Here they be:


copyright 2011, Melissa, 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.