What’s On My Mind: random thoughts occupying my Summer Hours

I’m carrying on with my summer hours – I haven’t posted since Sunday, and I haven’t really had time to compose full-length reactions to a few things I’ve read about recently, so this post will be a bit of a potpourri.

I’ll begin with a personal update, in case you missed it on Facebook or Twitter on Monday: I do believe the Shoulder Saga has come to an end! I originally dislocated my right shoulder just over a year ago, on June 25, 2010; I got it fixed five months ago, on January 21. I had a follow-up appointment with the orthopedist on June 27, and he “graduated” me – my shoulder is Officially Healed. He did an excellent job with the surgery, as did the physical-therapy team with the post-surgical rehab – and I sincerely hope I never have to see any of them again! (However, if you’re in the western San Fernando Valley or eastern Ventura County and need an orthopedic specialist, let me know – I’ve got some recommendations.)

So I won’t have my shoulder to talk about any more, but I always like to talk about blogging and those who practice it – I think a lot of bloggers do, actually. Kim Tracy Prince, who’s been doing this for almost seven years now, had a lot to say about it in a piece she titled “The Cranky Veteran Post.” (I’ve already shared this link on both Facebook and Twitter, but I think it’s a must-read if you’ve been doing this for any length of time.) She’s seen a lot of changes in the blogosphere during that time, and grown increasingly frustrated by a sense that her own place in it doesn’t seem to change, while newer blogs with different priorities jump to the forefront.

“I’m a veteran blogger in a time when blogging for a year is considered an accomplishment…I’ve been blogging for seven years, since before brands gave a crap about sending free stuff to bloggers, or inviting bloggers to parties, or sending bloggers on free trips to Kenya. Every so often I bitch about this and I write about how I need to get back to my roots and blog for the same reasons I started blogging in the first place: to tell the stories of my life as a parent. And since I’ve embraced that ‘Parent’ is one of my many personalities, this blog has become so much more than a ‘Mommy Blog.’ When people ask me what kind of blogger I am, I’ve been giving a long-winded awkward answer that essentially means ‘I like to write about what I think about stuff.’ 

“…As the years have progressed and billions of newbies have thrown their hats into the ring and become far more popular than I – more comments, more subscribers, more traffic, more gigs, more cool trips, more free shit, better and higher profile jobs – whether or not they are actually good writers – I have watched and worked and noticed, and their recognition as being SO AWESOME eventually builds up on me and makes me fume. 

“…The thing is, I work hard. I’m good at this. I’ve never considered giving it up. It’s a part of me. But the landscape is so different now. ‘Success’ in media has always required serious hustle and some kind of unidentifiable X factor. One can suggest that I adapt to keep up with the times, but I really don’t have a desire to change the format, or focus on a niche, or comment on 75 blogs a day, or attend every conference and give out my card and a piece of candy to everyone I see. I’m not going to quit drinking, or quit taking drugs, or describe my post partum depression or my divorce in great detail, or publish photographs of my vagina, or reveal that I am a man.”

Kim’s one of the “original” Mom Bloggers, but I’m pretty sure her feelings aren’t unique to that particular category. I’ve had them myself, and even if you don’t want to own up to it, you probably have too. The landscape HAS changed, and it’s hard to know how to find one’s place in it sometimes. It’s also hard to decide that you want to keep doing it your own way and not play by the new rules, and it can be hard to accept that such a decision means that you may not find yourself with all that much of a place. I think getting to that acceptance is probably part of attaining blogger maturity…and I’m still not very mature sometimes.

Blogging’s not the only landscape that’s changing; those of us who focus our blogging on books are well aware of the struggles in that particular business these days – in publishing, in bookselling, and in promotion and finding readers. Independent bookstores are particularly challenged, and a recent New York Times article discussed some that have begun charging for author events. There’s never been a guarantee that these events would generate enough sales to offset their costs, but some stores have lost sales when attendees browse their stock, make lists of the books they want – and then order them from Amazon (sometimes before they leave the store!). Marie at The Boston Bibliophile has a thoughtful take on this.

I’m not sure most of us, as readers and bookstore customers, can address the “should” of bookstores charging admission to their events; we can only answer for ourselves whether we’d pay, or make a required purchase, to attend them. The discussion, in some ways, reminds me of paying for autographs at fan events like Comic-Con. It’s common practice at these events to have to buy admission tickets and then pay separately for each autograph you want (usually you have to buy a photo to get signed). It’s not perfectly analgous, since that money usually goes directly to the “celebrity” signer and not the Con, but I see similarities – and I’d much rather be required to purchase a book than someone’s publicity photo!

Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena occasionally hosts off-site author events which require purchase of a ticket – it’s usually the price of the author’s newest hardcover, which is included. But they also host many in-store readings at no charge and with no purchase required – they don’t even mind if you bring in a book you already have (I’ve done it), and there’s usually no limit on the number or type of items signed unless the author has imposed one. However, Vroman’s does make backlist books available for purchase as well as the new one the author’s promoting at the event, and I’ll almost always buy something while I’m there.

Having said all that, I’d pay a cover charge ($5 or so) to attend an author event, but then I probably wouldn’t attend unless I already knew the author’s work and felt the event would be worth the money.

These are a few of the things occupying my brain’s summer hours – what’s on your mind lately?

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