BBAW: Cultivating and Appreciating Community

I’m late to the BBAW posting party, and will be making up for it with a two-in-one post today (warning – lots of words ahead)! Fortunately, today’s designated topic is a variation on Monday’s theme – Community – so I don’t feel all that far behind. And as I mentioned in my Sunday Salon post this week, I’m quite ready for this:

“Lately I’ve been feeling a bit less connected to my community. There are reasons for it – domestic responsibilities, work, reading and writing that I’m doing for publication elsewhere – but I don’t like this sense of distance. I’ve fallen behind in reading your blogs. I’ve posted less regularly, and my commenting had been quite limited aside from responding to your comments on those less-regular posts. I need BBAW to re-connect me. I appreciate book bloggers, and I appreciate being able to count myself among them.”

So far, BBAW has been accomplishing that reconnection. I’ve already added at least a half-dozen new blogs to my feed reader, and I’ve left more comments during the past couple of days than I’ve done in weeks! That’s been a good reminder for me that when it comes to fostering connection and community, a big part of it is putting into it what you’d like to get back.

A few weeks ago, the Weekly Geeks meme – founded by one of the original book-blogger community leaders, Dewey – closed up shop, and my final participation post contained some more reflections on community:

“The book-blogging community has been through a lot of changes since she left us; it’s both exploded in size and fragmented into ever-more-specialized niches. While annual events like the upcoming Book Blogger Appreciation Week and Armchair BEA do bring large numbers of us together to share and celebrate what we do, there are times when it’s very difficult to see us as one single ‘book-blogger community.’

And there are times I’m not sure that’s a bad thing. The whole community may be too much for one individual blogger to navigate, but within that whole, most of us manage to find our tribes, and we may find community in multiple places.”

Today’s BBAW blogging prompt asks us to share tips on finding and keeping community. Mine are pretty basic:

  • Keep reading book blogs, and be open to adding new ones to your rotation. Give a little more weight to suggestions from bloggers you already know and trust, but even so, feel free to be selective. If a massively popular blog doesn’t talk about books or topics that interest you, you won’t be missing out if you choose not to follow it. You’ll never keep up with all the blogs out there, and THAT’S OK. Eventually you’ll probably find that you skim a lot of posts, but there will be some blogs you almost always read, even if your tastes in books are quite different. It may be hard to define objectively just why you’re drawn back to those particular blogs – and there may be a variety of reasons – but they’ve become core members of your community.
  • It’s tried and true: Comment when you have something to say about a post, and respond to the comments people leave for you! And if you’re impressed with a post and think it deserves to be seen more widely, share the link on Twitter, Facebook, and your other favorite social-media outlets. The conversations that come out of these activities are the bedrock of community.
  • Participate in the activities that honestly interest you. There are tons of link-up memes and blog hops and events these days, and there’s something for everyone who wants to join something. But they’re all optional. Even if you do choose to join in, you can’t possibly do them all, and don’t feel like you have to! But while you’re involved, you’ll probably come across some great bloggers.

In 4.5 years of blogging (as of this Friday!) I’ve definitely come across some great bloggers – some via actvities and memes, some via other great bloggers. I’ve met some in person. And I can’t recall exactly how or when I met most of them. It’s always hard to decide which ones to single out for special mention during BBAW, but that was actually Monday’s prompt. I thought I’d start by thanking and reciprocating the ones who mentioned me and my blog:

Scobberlotch: Karen Harrington’s is one of my must-read author blogs (along with Beth Kephart’s), and she’s fully embraced the book-blogging community, as her post about “the best friends I’ve never met” on the BBAW blog makes clear.

Necromancy Never Pays: I’ll never appreciate poetry (sorry!), but I do appreciate Jeanne’s insightful discussions of it – and pretty much everything else she talks about.

It’s All About Books: Suey is my blogging-birthday twin (our blogs were both born on March 16, 2007), fellow Weekly Geeks team member, and is always full of enthusiasm for books, blogging, and music.

That’s What She Read: Michelle is one of my fellow co-founders of Armchair BEA, and it’s an honor to be on the team with her. Thoughtful and insightful, she’s also one of those bloggers whose posts I always read even if the book she’s discussing isn’t my thing.

(Speaking of Armchair BEA, thanks to all the BBAW participants who voted it “Best Book Blogging Event”!)

An unfinished person (in this unfinished universe): My favorite ambivalent book blogger (he’s never sure if he actually is one), Bryan’s also a Facebook friend and chief of the Sunday Salon police. I read just about everything he posts too, because I never know what to expect from him.

Sophisticated Dorkiness: Kim’s much closer to my son’s age than to mine, but it doesn’t matter. We’ve worked on blogging projects together and hung out at BEA, she’s influenced a lot of my nonfiction reading, and she’s a friend on- and offline. Age ain’t nothin’ but a number.

I wanted to mention a few others whose posts I will almost always read, no matter what they’re talking about. In addition to their fine blogging, I’ve had the chance to meet all of them offline. I fully believe in online connections, but I’ve found they’re enhanced by in-person communication.

Wendy at Musings of a Bookish Kitty: Wendy is part of the California Book Blogger Brigade (I just coined that name, by the way), although she’s been less active this year thanks to some big life changes. She was one of my first regular commenters, and an early (good) influence on my reviewing style.

Melissa at The Betty and Boo Chronicles: My one-time (BlogHer’10) conference roommate doesn’t limit herself to blogging about books; Melissa’s capable of getting fired up – and highly articulate – about pretty much anything. I just wish we didn’t live on opposite sides of the country from each other, but at least we have Facebook.

The Jills, Rhapsody in Books and Fizzy Thoughts: I didn’t really get to know Rhapsody Jill very well until BEA, but it wouldn’t have been the same without her, and her wide-ranging reading tastes make for never-boring blogging. Fizzy Jill, Queen of Parodies, is a tell-it-like-it-is reviewer and another member of the California Book Blogger Brigade.

Sassymonkey/Karen: Did you realize that BlogHer’s Book Club host and Books section editor and long-time book blogger Sassymonkey are the same person? She’s one of my favorite people to hang out with at bookish and bloggy conferences, and a big reason why I stay involved in the BlogHer community.

Once you start with the shout-outs, it’s hard to stop, but I think I’d better. It’s not like you have all day to spend here, right? There’s lots of bloggy appreciating to be done! I do appreciate the chance to appreciate this community, though.

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